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.
Nothing that currently exists can compete with fiber. Nothing replicates the future growth fiber networks will deliver, simply because nothing that moves data has the inherent capacity of a fiber wire. It isn’t even close by any technical measurement. However, barely 30 percent of Americans have access to fiber infrastructure, despite the fact that 100 percent of Americans have become dependent on high-speed access during the pandemic. If we break down the barriers that are suppressing the parties most ready to deploy fiber, 21st century infrastructure will come.
Both unintentionally and by design, we have reinforced a digital caste system that continues to divide communities into the “haves” and “have-nots.” What still remains unclear is not whether we can reverse engineer the disparate impact, but whether we, as a nation, believe that every resident in every community deserves equal access to a digital society. We need a plan, the kind that reaches every corner of the US. We need a nationwide strategy for broadband access that recognizes the importance of high-performance digital infrastructure and supports widespread adoption.
Let’s stop ignoring the obvious: broadband internet access service is a public utility and needs to be regulated as one.
We've noted repeatedly that despite a lot of breathless pearl clutching from US leaders and regulators about the "digital divide," the US doesn't actually know where broadband is (or isn't) available. Despite repeated complaints (often by FCC Commissioners themselves), the FCC just keeps doubling down on shoddy data to justify its complete and total fealty to telecom giants. The agency's latest notice of inquiry (part of its Congressional duty to report on the state of broadband once a year) even acknowledges the agency's data is bad...