The FCC will begin gathering information Wednesday for a new national broadband plan. The Computer & Communications Industry Association anticipates the development of a holistic plan to make affordable, high speed access to an open Internet the norm for all Americans.

CCIA believes broadband access is to 21st Century America is what electricity and telephone networks were last century: critical infrastructure essential to our economic prosperity and quality of life. The Internet is also the best invention enabling freedom of speech since the printing press, so vigilance is required to protect Internet freedom and access.

“We never depended solely on free market economics for universal delivery of affordable electricity and phone service, and there’s no reason to expect that we can do so for high speed Internet access” said Ed Black, President of CCIA.

“After years of calls for a national broadband plan in the U.S., and countless sightings of such plans being implemented in other countries around the world, we are encouraged that the FCC has finally put a U.S. planning process in motion.”

He added that greater competition among broadband providers is key. “American businesses should no longer be saddled with monopoly rates for “middle mile” telecom transport or “last mile” enterprise access services. And duopoly should not be considered the gold standard of competition,” Black said.

Black said he has every reason to be optimistic that universal broadband access to an open Internet, free of discrimination, will produce multiplier-effect benefits in terms of spurring: 1)private investment in equipment development and online applications and services, 2) entrepreneurial e-commerce and job searching, 3)cost-saving innovations in health care, 4) improved public safety communications, 5) green energy solutions like “smart grid”, and 6) improved access to government information and services for a better functioning democracy.

CCIA hopes that input on the new broadband plan will come from a variety of nontraditional sources, including unserved populations, nonprofit local and regional network partnerships, small innovative wireless and satellite providers, health care providers, teachers, and housing developers. All have a stake in the Internet ecosystem that a national broadband plan is designed to promote. “Where demand for broadband may be lagging, perhaps we should consider deficiencies in supply, such as high prices for services, equipment, installation and training,” Black said.

CCIA cautions that one independent agency cannot produce this cornucopia of broadband benefits alone. CCIA suggests that development of a truly comprehensive national broadband plan will require unprecedented multidisciplinary co-ordination with other Obama Administration officials in the White House, and at the Departments of Commerce, Justice, Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing & Urban Development and Homeland Security.

Within the FCC’s own jurisdiction, however, action can be taken to get broadband connections to all Americans and to remove impediments to a healthy economic broadband ecosystem. The national broadband mapping project is already underway, and will highlight problem areas. Accountability in the administration of the Universal Service Fund (USF) is greatly needed, and special access rates must be moderated through regulation if not competition.

 

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