Upcoming policy issue

Action Needed Now to Preserve an Essential Lifeline During the Pandemic

Universal service is the principle that all Americans should have access to essential communications services, like phones and broadband. You may not have heard much about it, but a universal service crisis is right around the corner. Due to Federal Communications Commission inaction, nearly 800,000 people could lose phone service on December 1. On that day, changes in the FCC’s Lifeline program, which provides a modest monthly discount for communications services, mean that voice-only services like a home landline telephone and/or a cellphone will no longer be eligible for the discount.

Lifeline Needs A Lifeline

In less than three months, nearly 800,000 low-income people who receive telephone subsidies through the Universal Service Fund's Lifeline program will be negatively impacted by changes scheduled to go into effect at the Federal Communications Commission on December 1, 2021. The FCC needs to change course and help more Americans keep connected to communications services that are essential to navigate the ongoing public health and economic crisis. Most importantly, the FCC should act swiftly and hit the pause button on the 2016 plan to zero-out support for voice-only services.

How Do We Pay For Universal Service?

As the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act awaits a vote in the House of Representatives later this month, a debate over the future of the Federal Communications Commission's Universal Service Fund (USF) is already starting. Provisions in the infrastructure bill call for the FCC to quickly complete an evaluation of how the legislation will impact how the FCC's achieves the goal of deploying broadband to all Americans. Congress wants to know how the FCC can be more effective in achieving this goal. One brewing USF issue is how we pay for it.

Senate finishing crafting $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure proposal, including $65 billion for broadband

Senate Democrats and Republicans unveiled a roughly $1 trillion proposal to improve the country’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and Internet connections, setting in motion a long-awaited debate in the chamber to enact one of President Biden’s economic policy priorities. The roughly 2,700-page piece of legislation, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, includes $65 billion to expand broadband Internet access nationwide and ensure those who do have connectivity can afford their monthly payments.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

July 2021 brings us things to celebrate, things to denigrate, and things to absolutely deplore. On the good side, we have come to see that high-speed broadband has become an essential component of modern-day infrastructure. The ambitious broadband proposals of the Biden Administration have rightly gained strong public support, not just in one party, but both. We are also witnessing the reinvigoration of public agencies to protect the public interest, something Biden made clear in his Executive Order on competition.

The American Jobs Plan

The American Jobs Plan is an investment in America that will create millions of good jobs, rebuild our country’s infrastructure, and position the United States to out-compete China. Specifically, President Biden’s plan will:

What Will the FCC Do Next with Lifeline?

What constitutes a lifeline in 2021? Is it a phone? A smartphone? A fixed-location broadband connection? Or some combination of all these services?

Why is the FCC Talking about a USF Cap?

The Benton Foundation unequivocally opposes any proposals from the Federal Communications Commission that would allow the FCC to shirk its responsibilities to meet its Congressionally-mandated mission. The FCC is supposed to ensure:

The FCC Ignores Reality in 5G Proposal

The Coalition for Local Internet Choice and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors asked for my view of the Federal Communications Commission’s pending order, proposing to cap the fees that state and local governments may charge for small-cell attachments. According to the FCC’s draft order, these price‐caps will save the industry $2 billion in costs to operate in metropolitan areas—which will translate into $2.5 billion in new wireless investment, primarily in rural areas. Here are my concerns:

Regulatory Oversight and Privacy Policy for an Open Internet Ecosystem

In my previous post, I highlighted four reasons why the U.S needs a unified policy framework for an open Internet ecosystem: 1) lack of competition/incentive and the ability to discriminate; 2) collection of and control over personal data; 3) lack of transparency; and 4) inadequacy of current laws and enforcement. Many of these problems can be addressed with targeted legislative and regulatory interventions.