Wednesday, November 4, 2020
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Elections & Media
With the 2020 election right around the corner, the net neutrality debate could come roaring back. It’s also possible it could be decided forever. However it shakes out, there will be implications for net neutrality. So what will the future of the net neutrality battle look like under a continuation of Trump’s administration or if former Vice President Joe Biden wins? Experts see the future of net neutrality rolling out one of two ways, both of which have several avenues splintering off from each. In a Biden administration, it’s widely believed that net neutrality will come back in some form. Whether that is through the FCC or through Congress, the former vice president’s term in office should lead to net neutrality being restored, experts say. On the other hand, Trump’s first term in office led to the repeal of net neutrality, meaning that the threads that have already begun to unspool—like legal battles at the state level—would likely take center stage in the net neutrality debate if he repeats.
Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) released the Broadband Initiatives Report which outlines the state’s vision to create economic opportunity for Coloradans and accomplish the administration’s Bold Four issues through changing how Colorado governs, maps, funds, and deploys broadband. To support this vision, Gov Polis signed an Executive Order creating a Broadband Advisory Board within the Office of Information Technology (OIT) to focus on collaboration and coordination of broadband efforts for Colorado, and to partner with the Office of Future of Work (OFOW) to provide regular updates to the board on digital inclusion and literacy.
The report makes several observations about the current needs of broadband stakeholders. In one section, the document suggests that the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of broadband (25 Mbps download speed/3 Mpbs upload speed) is outdated in 2020. “Our definition and policies must be updated to support the actual bandwidth needs of Coloradans,” the report reads. The report discusses broadband mapping and advises the state to give OIT “statutory authority to require granular data from all ISPs operating in Colorado and providing OIT with the tools to ensure compliance with the requirements.”
Let’s stop ignoring the obvious: broadband internet access service is a public utility and needs to be regulated as one.
The back-and-forth war over net neutrality fought time and time again at the Federal Communications Commission must end. Make no mistake, ensuring an open internet is an important policy struggle, but the FCC’s failures reveal a deeper problem: how can we best regulate internet service supplied by Internet service providers (ISPs), which is NOT to be conflated with regulating the internet, as is so often the lament from the anti-net neutrality crowd. The current status quo cannot be allowed to stand and it will not increase more broadband access at an affordable price
A new Congress will be sworn in next January. It can settle this debate once and for all. We can no longer endure the seesawing classification debate at the FCC, the winner of which depends upon a Presidential election every four years. Therefore, legislation must be passed to grant the FCC new, clear authority to govern broadband service as a telecommunications service, an essential utility. Additionally, Congress must fund a massive internet infrastructure project to get broadband into the home of every American family. With Congressional funding and a new grant of authority and purpose at the FCC to treat broadband like the essential utility service that it is, the government can—and must—connect many more Americans to the internet and to each other.
[Jonathan Schwantes is a senior policy counsel in Consumers Reports’ Washington DC office where he focuses on telecommunications issues affecting consumers in the broadband, television, media, and wireless markets.]
“We should construct broadband policy based on the ways people use broadband, and that has changed drastically,” writes Benton Senior Fellow Jonathan Sallet in “Broadband for America Now.” He’s absolutely right. Everything has changed since the coronavirus pandemic began – including the ways we use broadband. SHLB has long argued that community anchor institutions (CAIs) require high-quality broadband to serve their communities in the 21st century. We also push for deploying broadband “to and through” anchors to connect surrounding residents. In his essay, Sallet acknowledges that the need for policies enabling “to and through” has never been more clear. Sallet offers the following recommendations with regard to CAIs:
Ensure that everyone can access anchor institution broadband: Congress should adopt broadband credits and deployment funding, promote competitive rates for anchors, and guarantee CAIs access to spectrum.
Ensure that CAIs have the necessary bandwidth to meet increased demand, at competitive prices: Policymakers must establish connectivity goals to accommodate this ever-rising demand, support CAIs with direct funding, and fully fund the RHC program to sustain the telehealth boom.
Use anchors as a launching pad for community-based broadband access and competition: To build broadband “to and through” CAIs, the FCC must allow E-rate participants to share their networks with the community.
Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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