The Federal Communications Commission eliminated legacy unbundling and resale rules where they stifle technology transitions and broadband deployment. The rules date back to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which required monopoly local telephone companies to make portions of their networks and services available to competitors at regulated rates. The Order eliminates rules requiring unbundling of the following network elements, subject to certain conditions and multiyear transition periods:
The digital divide hasn’t gone away, despite much money spent and many speeches made. A patchwork of conflicting government programs, flawed maps, and weak enforcement have left broad swaths of the country without access to high-speed or even basic internet service when people need it more than ever. The result is a longstanding source of personal frustration and economic disadvantage for many rural communities in areas where spread-out housing makes adding new wires expensive.
The internet has grown into a utility, and internet access should be regulated as such. The position of the US government — not to mention phone and cable companies — is that the internet is a free-market service, full stop. It’s not a utility. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai says the internet industry merits only what he calls “light-touch” regulation, which is to say hardly any regulation at all. “The FCC’s light-touch approach is working,” Chairman Pai declared in 2019.
AT&T reports it now has 4.7 million fiber subscribers, adding 357K net new fiber subscribers in 3Q 2020, up over 12% from 3Q 2019. AT&T now reports 33% penetration of its fiber homes passed. Verizon reported 139K net adds for consumer Fios fiber subscribers, the most net additions since 4Q 2014. That’s up over 450% from 3Q 2019. Verizon now counts 6.1 million fiber subscribers.
The private market will not close this digital divide on its own. Nearly 28 million American households have a single choice of broadband provider; millions more live in duopolies. Government primarily serves as a regulator—recently, an anti-city, anti-competition regulator—with a few programs that subsidize internet service providers’ (ISPs) service of low-income residents. New models of public-private partnership are essential to achieve universal broadband. The public and civic sectors have three principal tools to shape these partnerships:
Nearly a decade ago , the North Carolina General Assembly approved legislation that essentially blocked municipalities from acting as internet service providers, barring any new or expanded municipal-owned and operated systems. At the time, Wilson had been building its Greenlight system, with lightning-fast internet speeds, and a handful of other North Carolina cities and towns were following suit. The large telecommunications companies – Time-Warner-Cable (now Spectrum), AT&T, and CenturyLink – argued that this amounted to unfair government-subsidized competition.
AT&T Is Abandoning Tens of Thousands of American Households in the Deep South Who Have No Other Internet Access Option
AT&T has stopped making connections to users subscribing to its DSL Internet as of Oct 1st. It looks like the most conservative number of those affected by the decision will be about 80,000 households that have no other option. Analysis using the Federal Communication Commission’s Form 477 data shows that the Deep South will be hit the hardest, with 13,200 households in Georgia, 11,700 in Florida, and 9,700 in Mississippi. South Carolina and Texas have just under 8,000 households affected.
It’s become clear to teachers, administrators, and community members that the digital divide is too big for schools to bridge on their own. The infrastructure needed to teach rural students remotely would require systemic change — it would require government assistance. Months into the pandemic, educators say they still don’t have what they need.
On Oct. 1, AT&T stopped selling digital-subscriber-line (DSL) connections, stranding many existing subscribers on those low-speed links and leaving new residents of DSL-only areas without any wired broadband. “We’re beginning to phase out outdated services like DSL and new orders for the service will no longer be supported after October 1,” a corporate statement sent beforehand read. “Current DSL customers will be able to continue their existing service or where possible upgrade to our 100% fiber network.”