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Universal Broadband

Feds Approve Broadband Data Improvement Act

Congress has passed — and President Bush has signed — the Broadband Data Improvement Act.  The Act, which had been pushed by Senate Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and supported by a coalition of organizations, such as the Communications Workers of America,has as its explicit purpose "to improve the quality of Federal and State data regarding the availability and quality of broadband servicesand to promote the deployment of affordable broadband services to allparts of the Nation." 

Overview

Today, a major digital divide exists between thosewho have access to high-speed Internet and those who lack access and/ or thecapability to use, high-speed Internet. Too many Americans, especially those inrural areas or low-income households do not have any Internet access, let alone high-speed Internet access. Mapping high-speed Internet availability andadoption, and making that information accessible to the public is an important tool for legislators and local planning groups that wish to evaluate thecurrent status of their states’ high-speed Internet infrastructure and utilization. Such information iskey when determining where to dedicate future resources when developingdeployment strategies.

Overview

In the last few years there have been major changes in the telecommunications environment. There is growing recognition by the public sector, businesses and communities that telecommunications infrastructure and services play an important role in economic transformation, sustainability and social well-being. The rise of more advanced Internet technologies has increased the demand for infrastructure far beyond the level previously needed. We are faced with the challenge of getting universal, affordable high-speed Internet deployed, especially to under-served and un-served areas. The challenge that we face is how to get universal affordable high-speed Internet deployed,especially to under-served and un-served areas.

In order to achieve universal and affordablehigh-speed Internet, states must implement intertwining policies that increase access to, and adoption of high-speed Internet. States need to identify where access to high-speed Internetcurrently exists, develop deployment strategies to increase affordable high-speed Internet access and adoption in under-served and un-served areas, and develop policies that ensure community and consumer protections in infrastructure build-out.

Core Universal and AffordableHigh-speed Internet Policies:

 

Overview

Statewide video franchising agreements,enacted in many states, have undermined consumer protections previouslyprovided by local franchising agreements. Analysisof the effects of statewide video franchises found that consumers in statesthat have enacted statewide franchising laws have seen their cable servicebills go up 8 to 50 percent, depending on the level of service. Further, consumer's complaints, instates with statewide video franchising, remain high with 74% of surveyrespondents reporting no reduction in the level of complaints.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, serviceproviders have argued for years that the streamlined process of statewide videofranchises, instead of local franchising agreements, could have benefits forthe public; such as slightly increasing competition or facilitating a morestrategic statewide universal deployment plan. These providers with interests in breaking into the TV industry, have putintense pressure on legislatures to adopt statewide video franchises. The problem is that industry playersoppose the public interest requirements that always have gone hand-in-hand withfranchise deals.

Overview

Statewide video franchising agreements,enacted in many states, have undermined consumer protections previouslyprovided by local franchising agreements. Analysisof the effects of statewide video franchises found that consumers in statesthat have enacted statewide franchising laws have seen their cable servicebills go up 8 to 50 percent, depending on the level of service.  Further, consumer's complaints, instates with statewide video franchising, remain high with 74% of surveyrespondents reporting no reduction in the level of complaints.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, serviceproviders have argued for years that the streamlined process of statewide videofranchises, instead of local franchising agreements, could have benefits forthe public; such as slightly increasing competition or facilitating a morestrategic statewide universal deployment plan.  These providers  with interests in breaking into the TV industry, have putintense pressure on legislatures to adopt statewide video franchises.  The problem is that industry playersoppose the public interest requirements that always have gone hand-in-hand withfranchise deals.

Overview

Wireless and wired technologies allow municipalities to offer a means to bridge the digital divide. Communities are now building their own wired and/or wireless “Community Internet” systems, using fiber optic cables or unlicensed space on the public airways to provide dependable high-speed Internet connections to homes all across America.

Municipalities seeking to provide affordable high-speed Internet to their residents have had to deal with special interest legislation at the state level designed to shut down municipal networks. In an effort to stifle competition and protect their profits, service providers are pushing bills in state legislatures that would prohibit communities from setting up high-speed Internet networks, prevent competition and undercut local control--even in rural and low-income areas not currently served by large providers. More than a dozen states now have laws on the books restricting cities and towns from building their own high-speed Internet networks.

Overview

Many states have created funds to help encourage private sector investment in high-speed Internet infrastructure. These states typically employ matching grants to improve the financial feasibility for service providers to expand operations to previously un-served areas. Other states have issued direct funding for projects or research, including the creation of public sector entities that use state funds to construct and lease high-speed Internet infrastructure.

Overview

Once under-served populations are determined, affordable high-speed Internet needs to be deployed to these individuals. The first step to successful deployment of broadband Internet infrastructure is for states to create broadband authorities, consisting of diverse stakeholders, capable of developing a smart deployment strategy.

Broadband authorities provide a forum for public/private collaboration and “big picture”policy direction. Any legislation establishing an authority should require the council consist of diverse members representing various stakeholders and experts with the express purpose of protecting municipalities’ rights, and establishing clear deployment and adoption goals and accountability metrics.