The Coalition for Local Internet Choice and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors asked for my view of the Federal Communications Commission’s pending order, proposing to cap the fees that state and local governments may charge for small-cell attachments. According to the FCC’s draft order, these price‐caps will save the industry $2 billion in costs to operate in metropolitan areas—which will translate into $2.5 billion in new wireless investment, primarily in rural areas. Here are my concerns:
[Speech] On of the two historic accomplishments of the current Federal Communications Commission is that it is the first FCC to interpret its statutory mandate to say it doesn’t have much legal authority or policy rights to regulate broadcasters, telephone companies, cable companies, or wireless companies. Instead, its principal regulatory mandate is to regulate another set of enterprises: local governments.
At the Federal Communications Commission’s request, nearly 800 communications companies and trade groups signed the “Keep Americans Connected” pledge. The signatories agreed not to terminate service to any residential or small business customer, and to waive any late fees incurred, due to economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last time the country faced an economic crisis, Congress saw broadband as a significant tool to jumpstart the recovery.
When it comes to the Internet, the COVID-19 crisis is teaching us that we’re so much better off than we could have been, but not as good as we need to be. COVID-19 is a stress test for many systems in the United States, most critically in our health, government, education, media, retail and financial services sectors. All of them are now depending more than ever on the Internet to serve their users. The current health crisis will likely peak some time this year, but our intensified reliance on digital technology will not.
Everything from meetings at the office to happy hours with friends are all now occurring in digital space. All of this internet use is putting more pressure on our broadband infrastructure. Just in the past few weeks, data demands have risen in nearly all categories.
Eleven years ago Congress asked for a National Broadband Plan. Ten years ago, we delivered it. If Congress were to ask for such a plan for the next decade, what would it contain? What did we learn from doing the 2010 Plan that would be useful for a team doing one in 2021 to know? I will address those questions by discussing four key differences between then and now, delineating three key learnings, and closing with some eternal truths that animated our effort and should animate the next as well as making one quick suggestion relating to broadband in time of the coronavirus.
City Utilities, Springfield's (MO) city-owned electric utility, recently announced plans to expand its fiber optic network to every home in the city and lease excess fiber—on a nonexclusive basis—to the internet service provider (ISP) CenturyLink. CenturyLink, in turn, will offer high-speed fiber broadband services citywide and pay for marketing and customer service costs.
In its quest for solutions and partnerships, the New York City's Internet Master Plan is a sharp contrast to the Federal Communications Commission’s approach, which started with the idea that the primary tool for deploying next generation networks was deregulation, and that cities themselves were the major cause of most delays.
The digital divide is not exclusively or even most significantly a rural problem. Three times as many households in urban areas remain unconnected as in rural areas. And regardless of geography, access isn’t the main reason these homes are without Internet service. The vast majority of US homes without broadband service could have it today, but they don’t want it.