With this week’s release of the Federal Communications Commission’s Sixth Broadband Deployment Report, Chairman Julius Genachowski got it right: As many as 24 million Americans still have no access to broadband and won’t anytime soon. So why is it so hard to get the reforms we need to maximize rollout? (“FCC: Broadband prospects bleak for up to 24 million,” July 20)
The commission set forth a number of reasons for the problem, but one lost in the shuffle is this: The ongoing efforts by a handful of dominant telecommunications giants to disconnect their copper wire networks, foreclosing the possibility for the ubiquitous and economic provision of broadband access by competitors. Simply allowing copper-over-broadband providers to maintain access to the Bell’s existing infrastructure could exponentially increase rates of broadband access and adoption throughout the U.S.
As the FCC clearly understands, access to high-speed broadband’s capabilities — particularly in unserved or underserved sectors such as small and medium-sized businesses — offers unique potential to spur economic growth at a time when many everyday Americans continue to suffer the effects of the recent Great Recession. Green technology and telemedicine, telecommuting, public safety, mobile devices — not to mention nearly every imaginable form of commerce — will benefit if small and medium-sized businesses can finally get the advanced broadband capabilities they need to thrive in the emerging Internet-dependent world.
Specifically, the NBP asks that the issue of copper retirement be reviewed through the prism of encouraging the rapid deployment of broadband capabilities to businesses where fiber deployment may never prove economic. There is simply no reason not to pursue all technologies for broadband access, particularly one that is so available today on a nationwide basis.
The FCC should move expeditiously to review the legacy special access regime and ensure access to the existing copper infrastructure for broadband development. Sensible regulations in these two areas would empower competitors to further invest in high quality, faster communications services at a fair price for consumers. This would enhance economic welfare throughout the critical small to medium-sized business segment, the engine for job growth.
We cannot delay in undertaking the necessary proceedings and analysis that will enable the FCC’s vision in the NBP to be achieved. Either we move now or risk missing what could have been our last, best hope for swift economic recovery.