FCC's broadband plan wins general praise

The U.S. Federal Communication Commission's national broadband plan, released Tuesday, received generally positive reviews, with some groups calling the plan ambitious and necessary.

Other groups suggested the broadband plan would lead to more regulation of the Internet and huge new government programs. Many people and groups expressed general support, but reserved comment on some proposals until they could see more details.

Here is a sampling of statements about the broadband plan:

-- Rey Ramsey, president and CEO of trade group TechNet: "This roadmap for broadband can truly represent the 'north star' for future American innovation leadership. The flagship part of the plan according to reports will be setting a goal of having 100 million U.S. households with broadband at speeds of 100 megabits per second by 2020. Speed matters as it can help unleash a host of American ingenuity to create new businesses and industries.

"Simply put, wider adoption of broadband is one of the best fiscal stimulus policies we can make as a nation as new industries, companies and jobs are created as a result."

-- On the other hand, Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies at the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, called the plan an "abomination" on a Twitter post Tuesday. The broadband plan will "vastly expand" the FCC's role in a number of industries, including health care and education, he said. Government-centric telecom efforts often are inefficient and wasteful, he said.

"These proposals endanger Internet freedom and threaten to further subjugate the broadband market to political manipulation," he said. "The national broadband plan proposes the creation of numerous new federal programs designed to bring America closer to 'universal' broadband access."

-- Intel called the plan "meaningful and ambitious."

"We believe in the transformative potential of widespread, high-quality, affordable broadband," said Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini. "To lead in competitiveness, innovation and job creation in the 21st century, our country must plan ahead. This means investing in next-generation wireless and wireline infrastructure, increasing home broadband adoption, and enabling commercial spectrum to flow to uses that the market values most."

-- Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts: "The plan appears to reflect the emerging consensus on a number of paramount broadband goals, most notably the need to achieve universal adoption and digital literacy; the need to fix and redirect outdated subsidy schemes to more efficiently deliver broadband to unserved areas and to close the affordability gap for low-income families; and the need to break down policy barriers that keep broadband from serving critical national purposes such as health care, education, and employment.

"With the demand for bandwidth doubling every two years, most recognize the critical need for continued private investment in faster competitive broadband networks, and the importance of maintaining a regulatory environment to promote that investment. We hope that implementation of the many recommendations contained in the plan will help to achieve that critical balance ..."

-- The New America Foundation, a think tank often critical of large broadband providers, said the plan contains a number of important proposals, but parts of it are "little more than status updates" of ongoing FCC proceedings.

"Ten years of market failure have left the United States far behind other industrialized countries in broadband access, affordability, and adoption," said Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative. "This plan has the potential to address these issues; however, bold leadership needs to come from the FCC, congressional leaders, and President Obama to successfully implement the meaningful reforms we need to put our 21st Century economy back on track."

-- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the FCC for its efforts, but also said the broadband marketplace is working in many areas of the country.

"Broadband stimulates job creation, fosters economic growth, and improves our society," said William Kovacs, senior vice president for environment, technology, and regulatory Affairs at the Chamber. "The Chamber is pleased that the FCC's plan recognizes the importance of spurring broadband deployment to unserved areas, improving broadband adoption rates, and supporting public-private partnerships.

"The U.S. broadband market is flourishing," Kovacs added. "Cable operators, phone companies, wireless carriers, and others are all vying to provide broadband service to consumers. Broadband-enabled applications, services, and devices are being released daily. Despite these factors, there are still parts of the country where businesses do not have access to broadband or its related applications and services."

-- The Motion Picture Association of America applauded the FCC for recognizing in the plan that copyright piracy remains a problem.

"We applaud the FCC for issuing a plan designed to connect all Americans to high-speed Internet, while recognizing that copyrighted content must be protected online if broadband is to thrive as an engine of growth and innovation for the 21st century," said MPAA President and Interim CEO Bob Pisano. "Protecting creative works against online theft not only will enable consumers to have greater access to the content of their choice, but also will help the nation's creative industries continue to serve as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation."

-- The Media Access Project, a law firm and advocacy group focused on media reform: "The Federal Communications Commission gets an A+ for delivering a vision that could bring low-cost, world-class high-speed Internet access to all communities, fostering competition and consumer choice in broadband services. But the real test begins now, and the final grade will depend on the commission's execution of future proceedings that will be required to transform the national broadband plan into reality."

-- The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NCTA), a trade group representing rural telecom carriers, praised the FCC for its work, particularly on efforts to reform the giant Universal Service Fund. A large portion of the fund subsidizes traditional telephone service in rural areas, and the FCC plan would transfer that funding to broadband deployment.

Some pieces of the plan, however, may not provide the right incentives to roll out broadband in rural areas, the group said.

"The plan takes a critical first step toward making universal broadband a reality for every American, by recognizing the integral role of USF reform in ensuring a viable broadband infrastructure for the future," said NTCA CEO Michael Brunner. "But to truly achieve the goal of universal broadband, the plan must accurately account for all of the costs associated with providing high-quality, affordable broadband to rural and remote areas throughout the country. Put simply, the plan fails to do this right now."

The plan does not adequately address the need of rural broadband providers to recover costs related to universal service and intercarrier compensation, the group said. Without addressing these and other issues, the plan "would make it unlikely that affordable broadband services could be further deployed and maintained in many high-cost rural areas," Brunner said.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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