Broadband progress is measured by results, not good intentions

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The late Congressman John Lewis once prophetically noted that “access to the Internet is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.” In the long struggle to recognize Lewis’ vision and close America’s digital divide, civil rights advocates have repeatedly reminded policymakers of one central truth: progress is measured by results, not good intentions. In 2015, for example, the Federal Communications Commission modernized Lifeline—a decades-old program that had long helped low-income households obtain phone service—to apply to internet service as well. But restrictions blocked customers of many of the country’s biggest providers from participating. Similarly, mandates and pricing restrictions in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program may discourage experienced providers from participating. We can and must address the challenges of building broadband networks for the communities that still aren’t served while helping hard-pressed households—including the rural poor—afford internet service. However, we should not strangle these goals in a mess of well-intentioned but ultimately harmful regulations.

[Robert Branson is the president and CEO of the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council.]

Commentary: Broadband progress is measured by results, not good intentions — Robert E. Branson