The FCC releases its National Broadband Plan Tuesday. The goal, originally outlined during President Obama’s 2008 campaign is ubiquitous affordable, high speed access to an open Internet to boost investment, innovation and economic opportunity for many millions more Americans.
After years of calling for a national broadband plan and watching as other nations surpass the country that invented the Internet, the Computer & Communications Industry Association is encouraged that we now have a comprehensive plan for all the broadband empowered aspects of economic recovery and emergence of a high performance America.
The following statement can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:
“The FCC Plan recognizes that while the biggest network operators are investing billions, we have too few network operators. That is, there’s not enough competition, and we’re stuck with local market duopoly unless new entrants can break through with next generation mobile broadband. In other countries, where broadband access is often faster and cheaper, there may be only one major public, private or hybrid network provider, but that provider is heavily regulated and/or required to offer wholesale interconnection to other Internet Access Providers (IAPs).
“This plan wisely includes an overdue review of wholesale competition rules in the United States. In a sense we have both too many and too few network operators in the United States. Not enough for effective competition, and too many for full- scale regulation. CCIA applauds the Plan’s inclusion of disclosure requirements for IAPs, which overlap with the FCC’s pending proposal for preserving the open Internet. The Plan’s promotion of efficient new broadband and transportation infrastructure construction via “dig once” policies, and use of state and local public resources for broadband infrastructure are also springboards to wider deployment.
“Big legacy carriers control too much of our valuable spectrum. Incentives for broadcasters and government agencies to liberate some of their unused spectrum for mobile broadband will be pro-competitive and we welcome such incentives. We are delighted that FCC appears to appreciate the problem of middle mile bottlenecks in high capacity backhaul lines faced by all but the largest two wireless network operators and will consider addressing this problem with pro-competitive reform of special access pricing and terms of service abuses. CCIA also supports the Plan’s pro-competitive initiatives on data roaming.
“The Plan’s gradual transition from the Universal Service Fund (USF) to a Connect America Fund (CAF) for broadband connections in high-cost areas instead of basic phone service is another wise move. Upcoming FCC proceedings on USF reform and inter carrier payments will be critical, and we hope the states follow suit. We especially applaud the Plan’s recommendation for transitioning the Lifeline and Link-Up plans to support broadband connections for low income households and students. Building on Recovery Act projects already underway, connectivity support for schools, libraries, government buildings and hospitals as broadband “anchor institutions” promises real progress.
“We expect that various parochial special interests will continue to try to overly influence the implementation of this plan, but we hope to work with the Congress, the Obama Administration, and the various agencies involved to ensure outcomes focus first on serving the public and the public interest. We will all benefit if the promise of this plan becomes reality.”
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.
CCIA is 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.
Now that the FCC has taken this step, it is time for Congress and other federal agencies to do their part as no one independent agency cannot produce this cornucopia of broadband benefits alone. To achieve widespread broadband deployment, the nation will need unprecedented multi disciplinary coordination 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.