10 Years Of U.S. Broadband Policy Has Been A Colossal Failure

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Nov 18th, 2020 marked 3900 days since the Federal Communications Commission launched its heavily-hyped "National Broadband Plan." 400 days ago, I penned an op-ed for the Benton Institute which assessed how the FCC had been unable to achieve any of the benchmarks or meet any of the six stated goals of the plan. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that another year didn’t fix very much of the shortcomings I identified then.

Nominally, the U.S. National Broadband Plan was designed to run for 10 years. The mandates expired, unfulfilled, back in mid-March, just as the Covid-19 Pandemic was beginning. Now, eight months later, concerns over the digital divide have only grown louder, while the FCC commissioners crow about statistics on broadband deployment and hand out additional subsidies for telehealth. As 2020 has unfolded, the agency continues to tout anecdotal successes in broadband “growth” using measurements of the subsidies being handed out to connect homes left behind by the FCC’s economic centric theories of regulatory implementation.

While we can debate metrics when assessing successes and failures of the FCC’s policymaking, the events of the last eight months have put a spotlight on how important the FCC’s failure to achieve its goals has been. As millions of Americans were forced to go virtual for work and school the clear requirement for affordable universal broadband access has never been clearer.

[Christopher Terry spent 15 years as a producer in broadcast radio and six years as a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee before becoming an assistant professor of Media Law at the University of Minnesota’s Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication.]

10 Years Of U.S. Broadband Policy Has Been A Colossal Failure 3500 Days of The National Broadband Plan (Benton Institute)