[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.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo resigned from the Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee, alleging that the committee is dealing internet service providers "a very favorable hand” of policy recommendations. "It has become abundantly clear that despite the good intentions of several participants, the industry-heavy makeup of BDAC will simply relegate the body to being a vehicle for advancing the interests of the telecommunications industry over those of the public,” said Mayor Liccardo.
[Commentary] Why are we talking about digital inclusion and equity now in a way that is different from, say, eight years ago? The obvious answer – very different presidential administrations – only touches the surface. Consumers are adopting digital tools like never before and, in some segments of the U.S., we’ve reached a “tech abundance” threshold that is driving a bottom-up interest in digital inclusion in many communities. Tech abundance doesn’t mean that everyone in society has adopted digital tools.
What will repealing net neutrality rules mean for communities in rural America? Public interest groups say it could present unique challenges. Jessica Gonzalez, deputy director and senior counsel for the group Free Press, says most rural communities only have one Internet provider and that provider could do as it pleases if the rule is repealed.
[Commentary] The Federal Communications Commission took its first major step toward overhauling the controversial Lifeline program in a move that will punish not just low-income citizens but perhaps small, innovative service providers as well. Yes, Lifeline was once teeming with fraud, waste and abuse. Yes, the program still has significant flaws. And yes, companies that fail to provide adequate services should be forever barred from Lifeline for preying on some of our most vulnerable citizens.
The Federal Communications Commission took steps to transform its Lifeline program. A Fourth Report and Order, Order on Reconsideration, and Memorandum Opinion and Order changes FCC rules to: