I was surprised to wake up this morning to this headline in The New York Times: "F.C.C. Plan to Widen Internet Access in U.S. Sets Up Battle." The article suggests that the Commission’s plan, due to be released this week, is going to meet massive resistance from communications companies.
I don’t think so.
Most of what I read about the Plan in the article is consistent with what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Blair Levin, the executive director of the FCC’s Omnibus Broadband Initiative, have been previewing for the last several weeks.
A major focus on addressing the full range of barriers to broadband adoption? We think that approach is right on, as evidenced by our advocacy on the subject since "the plan to do a Plan" was first announced. And we think the proposed "digital literacy corps" is a brilliant idea that can build on the success we have had in our Digital Connectors partnership with One Economy.
Coming up with a better way to get broadband to the remaining corners of America where it’s not economically viable to serve? We’re for that, too. Working with the cable industry, we’ve advanced a number of constructive ideas that we anticipate will find their way into the Plan.
Getting faster networks in front of Americans over the next decade? We’re on board, and we’re doing our part with the rapid rollout of DOCSIS 3.0 technology, which we’re using to deliver 50 Mbps speeds, and soon 100 Mbps speeds, just about everywhere we serve over the next year or so.
Finding more spectrum to promote mobile broadband? It is long overdue and needs to be done.
Giving consumers better information and tools to assess their broadband performance? We’re in support of that, too. A lot of speed test data out there, including some that the FCC has been referring to, has serious flaws. We were pleased to see the FCC issue a request for proposals last week to find an objective, reliable and trustworthy speed measurement tool. Done right, we will all benefit from that.
In fact, we like a lot of what we’ve heard about the Plan so far. We think the Commission’s work product represents a Herculean effort and should be applauded for pulling so many issues together and providing a blueprint to move this country forward.
This is not to say that we will agree with everything. With a project of this magnitude, that would be impossible. From the beginning, we’ve raised one "caution flag" – that the Plan, and FCC policies in general, need to maintain the light-touch regulatory environment essential to promoting investment. We are hopeful that the Plan, and the various proceedings that will flow from the Plan, will be guided by this critical consideration. A light touch has been fundamental to the Internet’s success to date. That said, I see no reason why there should not be wide agreement over the key goals I’ve outlined above.
And if there’s going to be a "battle," I think it should – and will – be focused on accomplishing the things on which we should all be on the same side: promoting more private investment in broadband, getting more Americans connected to broadband, and making the most of broadband as a nation to advance our economy and our society.
By all indications, the National Broadband Plan will give us all a lot on which we should be working together. But as always, there will be some who will continue to put pressure on the FCC to include in the Plan things that would drive us apart. What a shame it would be if they succeeded - there’s too much serious work to be done to let those forces prevail.