In order to move quickly but also deliver a successful and efficient Emergency Broadband Benefit Program, the Commission should make its decisions with the following principles in mind:
The first 100 days of a new Administration and new Congress are critical to charting a clear, bipartisan course for our nation’s policy agenda. From COVID relief to budget decisions, take bold and decisive action to finish the job of connecting every American home, business and anchor institution to U.S. broadband infrastructure. Particularly amid a global pandemic, the fact that an estimated 18 million American homes do not have broadband access is unacceptable.
In order to help consumers meet their urgent communications needs during this unprecedented emergency, the Federal Communications Commission should consider the following actions during the COVID-19 pandemic and for a reasonable period thereafter as unemployed and low-income Americans get back on their feet:
In order to provide further support to healthcare providers, the Federal Communications Commission should, in addition to adopting final rules for the proposed Connected Care Pilot Program, consider the following actions during the emergency:
There is simply no business case for investment in many rural areas without more effective public-private partnerships. That is why recent efforts in Washington to target funding and bridge broadband gaps in rural America are so important. Rather than creating new programs out of whole cloth, we encourage Congress to look to existing federal programs with proven track records, like the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund, as it considers how to distribute additional direct funding resources.
USTelecom is leading the charge on a new, more precise, approach to broadband reporting and mapping. We have proposed to Congress and regulatory agencies a method to create a public-private partnership to map America's broadband infrastructure so policymakers and providers can better target scarce funding to communities with limited or no service options. Currently, the Federal Communications Commission collects some deployment data from broadband providers by census block.
In 1996, Congress required incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) to unbundle and resell portions of their networks to upstart companies at discounted and government-set rates. These network-sharing rules applied exclusively to ILECs in an era before there was substantial competition from facilities-based rivals. Twenty-three years later that expected competition is here. (ILEC’s share of residential local voice markets fell from nearly 100 percent to only 11 percent of US households by the end of 2018.) Yet, these old-school regulations remain in place.
In a recent spending bill, Congress made $600 million available for additional broadband deployment to America’s rural areas. The US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has been tapped to administer these funds through a new pilot program. Without question, this funding is a welcome and needed addition to the growing arsenal now aimed squarely at closing the digital divide to rural Americans once and for all. Private investment, paired with dedicated federal programs, will connect millions more in the coming years.
[Commentary] Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has a lot on his plate. On top of running a critical independent federal agency, he now must do so under a cloud of hate speech and death threats directed at him and his young children. This behavior is unacceptable in any circumstance, and it is an especially sad irony that it’s being directed at a public servant who has made it his No.
[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission estimated in 2017 that to deploy high-speed broadband to 98 percent of American homes, it would cost $40 billion. For 100 percent, the cost doubles. Which is why greater broadband infrastructure funding — both public and private — is urgently needed in remote areas, where the cost of connectivity infrastructure remains extreme.