A new report from the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society argues for more federal support of open-access, middle-mile (OAMM) networks, which “can help the nation meet its deployment and competition challenges.” By definition, an OAMM network will allow any Internet service provider (ISP) to connect to it, “on nondiscriminatory terms and conditions,” in order to provide last-mile solutions to homes and businesses.
This year-long research project surveyed rural and urban Pennsylvanians about their willingness to pay for high-speed broadband service. It provides a unique first look into factors that continue to create substantial barriers to closing the digital divide. The researchers surveyed 1,446 Pennsylvania residents in May and June 2020. They used a hybrid telephone/SMS (short message service, or “text messaging”) survey that asked respondents about the type of internet technology available to them, broadband pricing, and willingness to pay for 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) broadband.
The Federal Communications Commission does not collect broadband pricing data or analyze the price of broadband access. This is despite numerous studies detailing how cost is one of the biggest barriers to broadband adoption, a stark divide that disproportionately harms Black, Latinx, tribal, and rural communities. The COVID-19 pandemic casts this gap in a grim new light. For the incoming administration, the solution is as close at hand as the nearest jar of pasta sauce or container of ice cream.
Several of Wyoming’s local fiber and cable-based broadband providers recently brought to my attention legitimate concerns that their high-speed broadband networks are likely to be overbuilt by competitors receiving CARES Act grants being distributed through the Wyoming Business Council’s (WBC) Connect Wyoming program.
Whether it's more fiber deployments by AT&T or T-Mobile offering fixed wireless broadband in rural areas, Charter is ready for the competition. Charter CFO Chris Winfrey said Charter was well-positioned to handle all types of competition across all infrastructures due to the continued investments it has made in its network. "We are growing against all competitors in all markets irrespective of the competitive infrastructure," Winfrey said. "And our results really demonstrate that when you compare that to the competition.
Even though Joe Biden’s victory is assured, the future of the Federal Communications Commission hangs in the balance. Getting broadband internet in as many homes as possible during the pandemic is many Democrats’ most urgent goal, and one they feel the Trump administration failed to accomplish. “Because the Trump FCC failed to meaningfully address the digital divide, tens of millions of Americans still lack high-speed internet,” said Rep Anna Eshoo (D-CA).
The Federal Communications Commission released data showing that the digital divide is closing. At the end of 2019, the number of Americans living in areas without access to terrestrial fixed broadband with speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps—the Commission’s benchmark for high-speed broadband—fell to 14.5 million, a 46% decrease from the end of 2016. Services at higher speeds saw even more significant deployment, with the number of Americans living in areas without broadband speeds of at least 250/25 Mbps falling by 77% since the end of 2016.
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.