Archive for the ‘National Broadband Strategy’ Category

Rural Telecom Associations Band Together for Unified Approach to Universal Service Reform

May 20, 2010
5/19/10 at 8:28 AM by Bernie Arnason

There is a big fight brewing in Washington – one whose outcome will have far reaching implications for rural broadband carriers. The issue is the multi-billion dollar universal service fund, and the fight revolves around its reform. As a result, many of the leading trade associations representing the interests of rural telephone companies have banded together for a ‘unified rural position.’

The unified movement includes the National Exchange Carrier Association (NECA), the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization for the Promotion of Small Telephone Companies (OPASTCO), and the Western Telecommunications Alliance (WTA). That’s a mouthful. These groups have agreed to respond to the upcoming National Broadband Plan’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and Notice of Inquiry (NOI) seeking comment on the FCC’s proposals regarding Cost Modeling and Universal Service Reform.

In a letter to its joint members the coalition outlined several key positions they will advocate for:

  • Network design based on funding only 4 Meg in rural areas is shortsighted and creates a digital divide compared to 100 Meg in urban areas.
  • RLECs have made significant investments in multi‐use, broadband capable networks which serve 37% of the national geography. Their continued ability to provide comparable telecommunications services to rural Americans is vital to our nation’s economic development, national security and public health and safety.
  • These investments have been made possible due to a time‐tested cost‐recovery structure consisting of rate‐of‐return regulation, NECA pooling, intercarrier compensation and USF support.
  • The FCC should now be looking to recreate this success story with a broadband focus and not undermine or ignore what has worked to achieve affordable and comparable services for rural consumers as required by the Communications Act.

There’s a lot at stake. Expect some considerable and heated debate, with some eventual ‘horse trading’ before this contentious issue gets resolved. Comments on the NPRM/NOI are due on July 12, with replies due on August 11.


FCC’s National Broadband Plan Released Today

March 16, 2010
3/16/10 at 10:08 AM by Joan Engebretson

The National Broadband Plan, to be released today, focuses on four ways government can help ensure that every American has access to broadband. These include, 1) designing policies to ensure competition; 2) ensuring efficient management of assets such as spectrum and rights of way; 3) reforming the Universal Service Fund to support broadband; and 4) reforming policies to maximize the benefits of broadband in government-influenced sectors. Such sectors include education, health care and government operations.

According to a FCC broadband plan executive summary released yesterday, the plan also will establish six longer-term goals “to serve as a compass over the next decade.” These include:

  • Connect 100 million households to affordable 100-megabits-per-second service, building the world’s largest market of high-speed broadband users and ensuring that new jobs and businesses are created in America.
  • Affordable access in every American community to ultra-high-speed broadband of at least 1 gigabit per second at anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals, and military installations so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow’s ideas and industries.
  • Ensure that the United States is leading the world in mobile innovation by making 500 megahertz of spectrum newly available for licensed and unlicensed use.
  • Move our adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent and make sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school.
  • Bring affordable broadband to rural communities, schools, libraries, and vulnerable populations by transitioning existing Universal Service Fund support from yesterday’s analog technologies to tomorrow’s digital infrastructure.
  • Promote competition across the broadband ecosystem by ensuring greater transparency, removing barriers to entry, and conducting market-based analysis with quality data on price, speed, and availability.
  • Enhance the safety of the American people by providing every first responder with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.

“The National Broadband Plan is a 21st century roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our children, protect our citizens and engage in our democracy,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in announcing the delivery of the plan to Congress. “It’s an action plan, and action is necessary to meet the challenges of global competitiveness and harness the power of broadband to help address so many vital national issues.”

In the coming weeks, we plan to offer much more detail about this plan and its implications fro broadband carriers, large and small. Stay tuned.

FCC’s National Broadband Plan May Cost $25 Billion

March 5, 2010
3/2/10 at 11:10 PM by Bernie Arnason

In about two weeks the FCC is scheduled to deliver a national broadband plan to Congress. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 mandated that the FCC author the plan, with the idea that the billions of dollars that are being allocated to broadband infrastructure should be wisely invested. The broadband stimulus plan allocates $7.2 billion towards the broadband cause. It appears to be a down payment.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the FCC’s national broadband plan will call for an additional $25 billion in spending. Of that $25 billion, approximately half or more will be allocated to a nationwide broadband public safety network for first responders. The FCC hopes to pay for this portion through future wireless spectrum auction proceeds. Additionally, the plan calls for $9 billion in funding for bringing broadband to rural areas. But it’s not entirely clear where that funding will come from.

The universal service fund (USF) is also addressed in the plan. Much of its current $8 billion budget would be reallocated towards broadband service, away from its current legacy phone service focus. The FCC believes it can clean up significant waste in the current USF, allowing it to address its new broadband mission without significant increases in its budget. Determining and rooting out this so called waste should be an interesting process to watch.

The Wall Street Journal also reports that large ISPs (cable and telco) will probably be happy with the plan, as it won’t force their hand on much. That’s not surprising. As I wrote this post (in approximately 30 minutes or so) in suburban Washington D.C., I counted three or more broadband lobbyist commercials on the 10:00 news.