How can we solve the rural broadband digital divide? On September 6, the Broadband Connects America (a new coalition which includes the Benton Foundation) offered a set of principles for attacking the problem. With countless federal, state, and local projects underway, if there's any telecom policy consensus these days, it is on this: we need better broadband data.
Congress is angling to impose some training wheels on the Trump administration when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars on broadband deployment. Lawmakers are eyeing the reconciliation process for the farm bill as a way to check the Agriculture Department, which manages various telecom subsidies through its Rural Utilities Service (RUS). “Appropriate guidance in the farm bill being reconciled and the department’s continued vigilance are critical to avoiding another boondoggle,” said a Senate GOP aide, referring to past alleged waste in the program.
Sohn set out recommendations to ensure that the Internet is accessible and affordable and that broadband Internet access service (BIAS) providers and online platforms are transparent about how they conduct their businesses. Affordable access to the Internet is rarely discussed in conversations about Internet openness. An open network is of limited value, however, if significant numbers of people cannot access it for cost or other reasons. In the United States, fully twenty percent of Americans are not connected to BIAS.
[Editorial] The Benton Foundation has joined literally hundreds of organizations that are asking the Federal Communications Commission to ensure Lifeline voice and broadband service for low-income households, with minimal disruption to the people who depend on the program for a consistent connection to the world via their telephone or internet connection. We're asking that the FCC:
[Commentary] Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has portrayed the Lifeline program and the people who benefit from it as hopelessly corrupt. Now he is proposing to make changes that will, for all intents and purposes, destroy the program. He aims to severely reduce both the supply of and demand for Lifeline-supported services.
[Commentary] How can we improve the biggest tool to closing the digital divide in the Federal Communications Commission’s toolbox: the Connect America Fund. Back in 2011, the FCC adopted a performance goal for the Connect America Fund of ensuring universal access to fixed broadband and concluded it would measure progress towards this outcome based on the number of newly served locations — but it did not articulate any concrete vision for when this universal service goal might be achieved.
Chairman Pai: "The report maintains the same benchmark speed for fixed broadband service previously adopted by the Commission, which we earlier proposed to retain: 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload. The report also concludes that mobile broadband service is not a full substitute for fixed service. Instead, it notes there are differences between the two technologies, including clear variations in consumer preferences and demands.
In the wake of the 2015 Title II Order, the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability slowed dramatically. From 2012 to 2014, the two years preceding the Title II Order, fixed terrestrial broadband Internet access was deployed to 29.9 million people who never had it before, including 1 million people on Tribal lands. In the following two years, new deployments dropped 55 percent, reaching only 13.5 million people, including only 330,000 people on Tribal lands.
Some White House officials view next-generation 5G wireless service as a “key area of competition,” and they say that the threat from China, in particular, justifies a “moonshot” government effort like the construction of the interstate highway system. A National Security Council memo urges the Trump administration to consider extraordinary efforts to clear the way for the new technology or even to help build it in order to counter the growing economic and political threat from China’s aggressive efforts to develop 5G.
If Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai was trying to signal the dismissal of the role of state and local governments in broadband and other key telecommunications issues, the past few months couldn’t have been a clearer indication. Since November, Chairman Pai has attracted concerned letters from members of Congress, major national organizations representing local governments and members of internal advisory committees.