On February 17, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing on COVID-19's impact on the digital divide and the homework gap. There was bipartisan agreement on the importance of expanding broadband access. Democrats focused more on affordability issues, especially during the pandemic, as well as improving data on where broadband is available and where it isn't. Republicans mostly extolled deregulation as a way to encourage rural broadband deployment and the need to streamline wireless infrastructure to facilitate buildout of the next generation of wireless, 5G.
Early in 2008, a group of people living in east-central Vermont, who understood the importance of the Internet to economic development, decided to act independently. They formed ECFiber, the EC standing for East-Central Vermont, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation with the goal of providing fiber access to every premises in 23 contiguous towns and one municipality in central Vermont. At the end of 2020, almost all of the roads in the original 23 towns have been provisioned with fiber.
House Republicans have unveiled their plan for "boosting" broadband connectivity and competition, and one of the key planks is prohibiting states and cities from building their own networks. Rep Billy Long (R-MO) is the lead sponsor. The bill "would promote competition by limiting government-run broadband networks throughout the country and encouraging private investment," without explaining how limiting the number of broadband networks would increase competition.
Appalachia represents a key test for President Joe Biden's $20 billion plan to get broadband access to communities that don't have it. President Biden, who said during his campaign that rebuilding the middle class in America is the "moral obligation of our time," faces a myriad of challenges in closing the gap, from actually laying down fiber-optic lines to educating consumers and ensuring that prices are affordable. In 127 of Appalachia's 420 counties, less than 75% of households had a connected device.
While the present day may not be perfect, I don’t think anyone disputes that we have fulfilled the promise of the deregulatory era. Prior to the Telecom Act, it was far from a foregone conclusion that we would graduate to a more efficient, competitive system. A change in national direction could have sent us back to the incumbent-driven system of midcentury. Instead, we came together, chose the free market and a light regulatory touch, and a quarter century of transformative innovation speaks to the wisdom of this choice.
Over the last two years, the R Street Institute has published the Broadband Scorecard, a project which ranks every state according to how well their laws govern the various aspects of broadband deployment.
Since Comcast is doing so well, one might think they could afford to be a good corporate citizen and community partner when it comes to bridging the digital equity divide. But apparently Comcast officials don’t have to play nice when they are the dominant game in town. Instead, the company has been at constant odds with Baltimore City officials and advocates over access to the internet services Baltimore children need for online learning.
Senate Antitrust Subcommittee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced sweeping new legislation to reinvigorate America’s antitrust laws and restore competition to American markets. The Competition and Antitrust Law Enforcement Reform Act will:
If you’re going to build broadband and have a choice of technologies, why is fiber the best choice?