Solving the problems of internet access goes well beyond throwing billions of dollars at the companies with the best lobbyists or most convincing executives. There is no single policy to solve the broadband problems faced by the nation. In most cases, better networks and lower prices would really help, but achieving that would require different strategies in rural or urban areas.
The next leadership team of the Federal Communications Commission must prioritize restoring the agency’s authority to protect consumers and competition in the broadband market. Under the next administration, FCC leadership should quickly commence a proceeding proposing to reclassify broadband as a “telecommunications service” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This reclassification puts the FCC on the firmest legal ground to
Technological innovation has long been and will continue to be critically important to per-capita income growth, economic competitiveness, and national security. So it is important to examine President-elect Joe Biden’s policy agenda through that lens. This report compiles information from the president-elect’s campaign website and policy documents, from the Democratic Party platform, and from media accounts of statements he has made.
St. Clair County, about 100 miles southeast of Kansas City, has a population of about 9,000 people. Roughly 18% of them live below the poverty line. Theresa Heckenlively is the head of economic development for the county, and says lack of internet access is hurting the county now, and limiting its future. “We don’t have enough service to be reliable for home and definitely not enough for economic growth,” Heckenlively said. “We see that a lot of people are coming from out of state and want to move into our rural communities.
Let’s stop ignoring the obvious: broadband internet access service is a public utility and needs to be regulated as one.
The new fervor for tech antitrust has so far overlooked an equally obvious target: US broadband providers. “If you want to talk about a history of using gatekeeper power to harm competitors, there are few better examples,” says Benton Senior Fellow and Public Advocate Gigi Sohn. Sohn and other critics of the four companies that dominate US broadband—Verizon, Comcast, Charter Communications, and AT&T—argue that antitrust intervention has been needed for years to lower prices and widen internet access.
For all that has changed since the Benton Institute released Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s, this goal remains paramount. In October 2019, we said that connecting our entire nation through High-Performance Broadband would bring remarkable economic, social, cultural, and personal benefits. We said that open, affordable, robust broadband is the key to all of us reaching for—and achieving—the American Dream.
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.