Broadband networks do not reach millions of people in the United States. And this lack of access has a significant impact.
A nonprofit, member-owned organization governed by Michigan’s public universities, Merit is America’s longest running regional research and education network – founded in 1966. Merit’s management and network expertise goes back all the way to the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNet), which spawned the modern internet. After more than fifty years of innovation, Merit continues to serve higher education, K-12, library, government, health-care and public-sector members. Its work goes beyond connectivity to include security and community services.
On November 5, the Federal Communications Commission gave its final OK, approving—with conditions—the transfer of control applications filed by T-Mobile and Sprint. T-Mobile's acquisition of Sprint was first announced April 29, 2018, touting the capacity to rapidly create a nationwide 5G network while offering lower prices, better quality, unmatched value, and greater competition. Is that where we've ended up? Although T-Mobile's acquisition of Sprint has gotten approval from both the U.S. Department of Justice and the FCC, the deal isn't done yet.
On October 30, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society will be releasing Broadband for America's Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The release is a major step in a multi-year effort to update America’s approach to broadband access for the coming decade. Over the last year or so, we've been speaking with people around the country about how communities are addressing their broadband needs.
Measuring broadband is an ongoing challenge for policymakers and, for many participants in broadband policy debates, often a source of frustration. The frustration about broadband measurement emanates from what seems knowable – at least it is about other infrastructure. We know where our roads and highways run. Today it is easy to know when they are clogged, where there are tolls, and how much those tolls cost. Electric infrastructure is essentially ubiquitous and it isn’t hard, in most places, to find out the cost of a kilowatt hour and compare prices among providers.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week was the agenda for the Federal Communications Commission's July 10 Open Meeting, which FCC Chairman Ajit Pai laid out in a blog post on June 18, 2019. I'm traveling to New York this week; below is a shorter-than-usual weekly that takes a look at how Chairman Pai plans to take education out of the Educational Broadband Service -- and broadcast television.
Last week, ten state attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint in a federal district court in New York. While it might not seem unusual for state officials tasked with enforcing antitrust and consumer protection laws to seek to halt the 4-to-3 horizontal merger of two of the nation’s mobile wireless companies, that the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice did not join the lawsuit was extraordinary.
On Friday, May 31, the Federal Communications Commission launched a proceeding to seek comment on establishing an overall cap on the Universal Service Fund (USF). USF programs provide subsidies that make telecommunications and broadband services more available and affordable for millions of Americans. The NPRM asks a lot of questions over how to cap the programs. But a crucial one we ask: Does this NPRM actually move the U.S. closer to closing the digital divide?
Again, and again, I’ve heard that when people live in areas unserved and underserved by broadband networks, businesses are hard-pressed to start, grow, or stay there. Without the economic development and individual prospects enabled by competitive, advanced, and affordable broadband, people will find it harder to secure good-paying jobs, get training for future positions, or seek higher wages.