Free Press Proposes New Direction for US Broadband Policy

FreePress

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Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x22

Free Press Proposes New Direction for US Broadband Policy

New report exposes failure of digital deregulation, offers recommendations for national broadband strategy

WASHINGTON - Today, Free Press released Dismantling Digital Deregulation: Toward a National Broadband Strategy,
a comprehensive, data-driven analysis of the failed policies at the
root of America's broadband decline. As the Federal Communications
Commission develops a national broadband plan, the new report offers
concrete recommendations for getting America's Internet policy back on
track.

"America's broadband failures are the result of policy failures -- and the blame falls squarely on the FCC's shoulders," said S. Derek Turner,
Free Press research director and author of the report. "The FCC
predicted a future of broadband competition, and then regulated as if
it were already here. While promising consumer benefits, it tore down
consumer protections. Digital deregulation reduced the broadband
revolution to broadband mediocrity."

Read Dismantling Digital Deregulation: http://www.freepress.net/files/Dismantling_Digital_Deregulation.pdf

The report measures the FCC's broadband policies over the past eight
years against the goals of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 -- a
blueprint for promoting competition, openness and access. It found that
the FCC ignored this blueprint with deregulatory decisions that
consistently favored short-term industry interests over the long-term
goal of universal broadband. As a result, consumers have been left with
higher prices, slower speeds and a broadband market with few choices.

The FCC is required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to
produce a national broadband plan by Feb. 17, 2010. To reverse
America's digital decline, the report offers the following
recommendations:

  • Review every major FCC decision since the 1996 Act and
    reverse those that failed to promote broadband competition, openness
    and access. Congress should aid this process with a series of oversight
    hearings.
  • Develop a data-driven standard to identify local areas
    where broadband providers are abusing their market power, and use the
    tools in the 1996 Act to promote competition.
  • Expand and codify the FCC's "Internet Policy
    Statement" into permanent Net Neutrality rules. Congress should pass a
    Net Neutrality law to place these protections in the Communications
    Act.
  • Reclassify broadband as a "telecommunications
    service," which will allow the FCC to promote competition by
    reinstating open access rules where appropriate.
  • Transition the Universal Service Fund from supporting
    telephone service to supporting broadband infrastructure. Congress
    should aid this transition through oversight and legislation to provide
    a clear path for FCC action.
  • Produce an honest assessment of whether broadband is
    being deployed to all Americans in a timely fashion, as required by the
    1996 Act.
  • Conduct a thorough review of policies governing
    competition and pricing in the "special access" and "middle-mile" or
    "enterprise" markets -- the broadband lines that connect cell phone
    towers and local area networks to the Internet.
  • Open more of the public airwaves to unlicensed use and
    promote shared spectrum for both low-power urban and high-power rural
    uses. Congress should instruct the FCC and the NTIA to identify
    spectrum that could be utilized.

Dismantling Digital Deregulation found that countries with
open access policies had nearly double the broadband penetration and
faster speeds for lower prices than countries without such policies.
Analysis of the impact of the FCC's decisions demonstrates that
eliminating open access did not accelerate U.S. broadband deployment,
as industry proponents claimed it would, but it did virtually wipe out
third-party broadband competition.

"Digital deregulation failed," Turner said. "It's time to chart a
dramatically different course with a national broadband plan that is
bold, comprehensive and ambitious. The new FCC should avoid the errors
of the past and return to the broadband blueprint crafted by Congress."

The new report is included in Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age, a book that will be released at the Free Press Summit on May 14. For more information about this event, visit www.freepress.net/summit

Read Dismantling Digital Deregulation: http://www.freepress.net/files/Dismantling_Digital_Deregulation.pdf

Read the National Broadband Strategy Recommendations: http://www.freepress.net/files/FP_National_Broadband_Recommendations.pdf

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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