Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Fcc'

Monday, August 24

A Step Backwards

By Brad

Over at Fierce Telecom, Sean Buckley chatted with our own Bruce Mehlman about the FCC’s current stance on legacy copper and TDM-based networks. An excerpt:

Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, told FierceTelecom in an interview that what’s troublesome about the regulator’s proposals is that it’s a step backwards.

He said that competitive carriers should focus more of their attention on building their own network infrastructure versus trying to leverage existing facilities built by incumbent telcos.

There are folks that have had a decade of notice that if they wanted more advanced structure they needed to be part of the solution of building network infrastructure, but they chose business models that were based on riding investments that were made by other folks,” said Mehlman. “Everybody’s has been notice for over a decade.”

Citing the move by Google Fiber to build out a new FTTH network infrastructure supporting 1 Gbps broadband and video services, Melhman added that “it seems like a mistake to offer a ‘new wire, new rule’ incentive to get all the investment you thought you would and then to say we’re considering going to ‘new wire, old rules.’”

You can check out Buckley’s full piece over at Fierce Telecom. And for more from Mehlman on this issue, check out his recent op-ed for Bloomberg BNA.

Wednesday, August 19

Let’s Get Nerdy Season 2, Episode 2: Lifeline

By Brad

IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher discusses the future of Lifeline.

Tuesday, August 18

Let’s Get Nerdy Season 2, Episode 1: Lifeline

By Brad

In the first episode of our second season of Let’s Get Nerdy, IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher discusses why and how the Lifeline program should modernized for our current digital age.

Tuesday, August 11

Stick With What Works

By Brad

Over at Mobile Future, Jonathan Spalter looks at the future of wireless and finds that as mobile video consumption contines to boom, fiber-based networks will become more and more critical. As he writes:

[A] Cisco report predicts that in five years, 85 percent of Internet consumption in the United States will be from video, primarily over mobile devices. While freeing up more spectrum is critical to meet the demand for mobile Internet and video services, wireless infrastructure also requires backhaul networks with sufficient capacity to deliver these bits between a wireless tower and the Internet backbone.

Deploying that fiber-based infrastructure will take a substantial amount of investment, and as Spalter points out, regulators have — so far — encouraged that investment:

The FCC in 2007 and 2008 decided to forbear from regulating the Ethernet services companies like AT&T and CenturyLink provide, and it predicted competition would increase even further without heavy-handed regulation. Through its Enterprise Broadband Orders the FCC expressly concluded that the market for packet-switched broadband services was “highly competitive” and recognized that the demand for such services was sufficient to incentivize deployment and entry by competitors absent regulation.

As Spalter notes, competition for Ethernet-based special access services has “skyrocketed” since the FCC’s Enterprise Broadband Order. But that hasn’t stopped some companies from urging the FCC to wield a heavier regulatory hammer. Spalter again:

[F]or all of their complaining that the government needs to intervene in the market and lower just their costs of doing business (a refrain these carriers bring to the spectrum set aside and roaming debates as well), national carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile, as well as smaller regional ones have managed to operate their networks and succeed in the marketplace over the past decade without greater government involvement, often as the low cost provider. There is no justification to increase regulation of legacy special access services when the backhaul marketplace is functioning perfectly well on its own, producing remarkable investment, a stream of new competitors and increasing consumer value.

Put another way, what companies like Sprint and T-Mobile are seeking is a form of corporate welfare; a bailout from the government that will only ding their competitors. It’s not exactly the spirit of competition, but you can’t really blame them for trying.

But unfortunately, as Spalter notes, the FCC may be listening to the unfounded complaints:

Competition in the special access market has flourished due to the bipartisan hands-off approach taken by Chairmen of both parties for over a decade. It defies logic for the FCC to continue spending so much energy attempting to regulate legacy services like DS1 and DS3 special access connections provided by incumbent carriers. The Commission should accept the success of its deregulatory approach in which unregulated entities have stepped up, as expected, to create a highly competitive special access market.

If we want to encourage more fiber deployment — and keep our wireless economy humming — let’s hope the FCC is listening to sensible arguments from the likes of Spalter rather than the unfounded complaints of a few companies.

Friday, August 07

Reactions to the Latest FCC IP Transition Order

By Brad

That above quote, in response to the FCC’s latest vote, was echoed by both AT&T Vice President Frank Simone and US Telecom Senior Vice President Jon Banks. From Simone’s blog post reacting to the order:

“The FCC cannot call on the industry to invest in more fiber deployment, raise the bar for what qualifies as a broadband service and then make it more difficult to retire services that do not even qualify as broadband.  We share the Commission’s goal to protect consumers as this revolutionary technological movement continues. But requiring carriers to prolong the use of and maintain an outdated infrastructure is not the way to go about doing that.”

From Banks’ reaction:

USTelecom members have been investing billions of dollars every year to deliver modern broadband services that far surpass the capabilities of older networks to businesses and consumers across the country… These investments to deliver better, faster, more reliable modern services make up the essential compact between providers and customers. We are concerned that today’s FCC Orders handicap delivering on this compact in the name of keeping a regulatory structure under which Fax machines provide a communication service of such importance that they must be preserved.

And, last but not least, from our own response to the vote:

Giving a select group of competitors, which continue to rely on the copper telephone network due to their failure to invest in their own advanced networks, the ability to influence copper retirement plans creates harmful market incentives that ultimately favor some providers over others, and runs contrary to the Administration and FCC’s National Broadband Plan goal of modernizing our nation’s communications networks for the benefit of the American consumer.

Thursday, August 06

A Missed Opportunity

By IIA

Following the FCC’s tech transition vote, IIA released the following statement:

The FCC today missed a unique opportunity to accelerate the nation’s transition toward an IP future.

With less than five percent of Americans relying exclusively on traditional, copper-line plain old telephone service (POTS), and three out of four communications users having already transitioned onto IP-based services, setting ‘rules of the road’ to protect consumers and advance these modern services is appropriate, welcomed, and timely.

Today’s FCC decision, however, takes an unnecessary and harmful detour to the past. Instead of focusing exclusively on how to accelerate IP-based broadband network investment, deployment and consumer adoption, the Commission has chosen to micromanage life support for the fading wireline copper network.

The agency’s action translates into burdensome rules that create greater obstacles to retiring antiquated 20th century copper-based telephone equipment. By impeding the retirement of outdated technology, the FCC’s requirements will divert resources necessary to invest in the upgrade toward new, next-generation, high-speed broadband Internet networks.

Giving a select group of competitors, which continue to rely on the copper telephone network due to their failure to invest in their own advanced networks, the ability to influence copper retirement plans creates harmful market incentives that ultimately favor some providers over others, and runs contrary to the Administration and FCC’s National Broadband Plan goal of modernizing our nation’s communications networks for the benefit of the American consumer.

Today’s consumers want the benefits of high-speed, reliable IP-based networks, and there is no turning back. Americans stream millions of hours of video content, stay in touch with friends and family in video chats daily, and are integrating online learning into their lives at a rapid pace. The new world we have entered relies on these services and untold others that we can’t predict today. It’s important for industry and the FCC to give consumers more access to the benefits on the horizon—with common sense rules—and not hold on to the sentiments of the past.

IIA supports a wired network transition that makes IP-based networks and services more widely available and improves the quality of life for all Americans. We believe the Commission should embrace initiatives that speed the nation toward an IP-based future, and revisit and reject those that unnecessarily anchor us to the past.”

Friday, July 31

“A Referee Without Rules”

By Brad

With the FCC swinging a large regulatory hammer these days, Fred Campbell of Forbes takes a close look at the Commission’s conditions for the recent merger of AT&T and DIRECTV. What he finds is another example of the FCC going rogue with regulation. An excerpt:

The merger’s pricing condition is retail rate regulation, but it’s far worse than what “was done in the pre-broadband days.” In old-fashioned rate-making cases, the FCC is required to justify the rate it imposes. The merger order “doesn’t even make a cursory attempt to explain how it arrived at this $10 price point” or why price regulation should apply to AT&T only and not its competitors.

What rules violation or competitive harm did the referee cite for throwing the retail rate regulation flag at AT&T only? None. The FCC penalized AT&T because it can. Unfortunately, no referee exists to throw a flag when the FCC discriminates against companies in a merger proceeding.

Campbell’s conclusion is that Congress needs to apply more oversight on FCC decisions:

The integrity of any game depends on the credibility of its officiating. That’s why the NFL watches its referees to make sure they are abiding by the rules too. When fans can’t trust officials to make a fair call, the league needs to reign in its referees. With the FCC, that task belongs to Congress.

Check out Fred Campbell’s full piece over at Forbes.

Monday, July 27

“FCC Should Not Import Monopoly Rules for a Competitive Future”

By Brad

Our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman has a piece in Bloomberg BNA on regulation the FCC is considering as America transitions to all Internet-based networks. An excerpt:

The nation’s historic transition away from the copper wire toward a modern Internet Protocol-based (“IP”) communication system represents a critical technological leap forward. The United States aims to complete this transition by 2020; indeed, the impetus for this effort actually first came from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, then in his role as head of an advisory board on technology transition.

This transition will ultimately bring consumers new technology, billions of dollars in new infrastructure, and faster and better broadband services and applications. Today, test trials for the transition are underway in Alabama and Florida to work out technical issues and ensure superior service quality for consumers.

Recently, however, Chairman Wheeler publicly outlined his proposed next steps for the IP transition that include applying old monopoly-style telephone rules to favor and advance certain carriers’ business models. Applying such rules to IP-based broadband communications networks of the future would benefit companies that serve businesses, yet provide little to no benefit to the average consumer.

Specifically, in response to the supposed need to “preserve competition in the enterprise market,” the FCC plans to require that “replacement services be offered to competitive providers at rates, terms and conditions that are reasonably comparable to those of the legacy services.”

Check out Mehlman’s full piece from Bloomberg BNA

Thursday, July 23

The Cooling Effect of Title II

By Brad

Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher talked with Jeff Hawn of RCR Wireless News for an article on Title II and net neutrality. In the article, Boucher argues that Congress needs to recognize the principles of net neutrality, but that Title II is simply an outdated fit when it comes to regulating broadband. An excerpt:

Boucher’s viewpoint is supported by a recent Georgetown study co-authored by Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute and Robert Shapiro of the Georgetown Center for Business Policy.

In the study, they write that Title II regulation is “likely to increase costs and regulatory hurdles for providers. Introducing substantial, new regulation of the businesses that provide much of the Internet’s infrastructure and content could not only raise the cost and price of most Internet communications, it also could reduce the efficiency of most network arrangements that depend on Internet platforms, devalue the investments made in those platforms or based on them, and force many organizations to reorient their enterprises in ways that would minimize the costs of the regulation rather than maximizing efficient operations.”

The uncertainty of Title II will likely cool the willingness of ISPs to make investments in their infrastructure, the net effect of which is that we won’t get the broadband build-out we otherwise would,” Boucher added. “Additionally, companies will be more cautious with new innovations. Essentially Title II hits the slow-down button and it’s the American consumer who will suffer.”

Tuesday, July 14

Regulation and Delayed Investment

By IIA

A recent Georgetown University Study by Kevin Hassett and Robert Shapiro confirms that the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to subject Internet Service Providers (“ISPs) to “Title II” public utility regulation will “have significant adverse effects on future investment in the Internet.”

The study highlights how new regulation can have a “destructive, negative effect” if capital investment is delayed as a result of the need to resolve new market uncertainty. It notes how the history of FCC regulation of Internet companies has been surprisingly uniform and consistent. Whether under a Democratic or Republican Administration, the historical arc of broadband regulation gravitated toward a light-touch deregulatory approach that treated the Internet as an information service rather than a heavily-regulated telephone common carrier service.

Such treatment of broadband as an information service allowed the pace of Internet adoption to rapidly exceed that of the personal computer or dial-up Internet service. Technological advances and competition accelerated broadband uptake by lowering its “average, quality-adjusted price” that further accelerated its uptake. By contrast, studies have detailed how common carrier regulation inhibited competition for consumers and businesses, and discouraged and slowed innovation in telephone service.

Consumers now, however, bear the risks of the FCC’s decision to reverse course and impose new regulations on ISPs that today provide much of the Internet’s infrastructure and content. Such regulation could ultimately result in increased costs and price for Internet service beyond new universal service fees. Moreover, the Georgetown study notes how the regulatory path toward Title II may result in reduced efficiency of key network arrangements that depend on the Internet platform. Reduced efficiency could have the long-term negative effect of devaluing the investments made in those platforms or based on them and thus trigger many in the Internet ecosystem to minimize the costs of regulation rather than maximize efficient operations.

In addition, the study identifies scholarship that quantifies the negative potential impact of telecommunications regulation on broadband investment. For example, the ban on “paid priority” arrangements could affect telemedicine applications and cost the economy $100 million per year by 2019. More generally, Title II regulation of ISPs could reduce their “future wireline investments by between 17.8 percent and 31.7 percent per year, and their future total wireline and wireless investments by between 12.8 percent and 20.8 percent per year.”

The study’s authors also raise helpful international comparisons to better understand the imminent consequences of Title II regulation on broadband investment. Specifically, they note the “large negative effects on investment” if our nation’s regulatory model were moved closer to the heavy-handed regulations that governed Europe’s communications landscape in the first decade of the 21st century.

Finally, the Georgetown study’s most sobering point is how the “negative effects of uncertainty” resulting from the FCC’s sudden policy shift and on-going litigation may actually understate the harm of reduced broadband investment.

In light of this additional evidence and the potential harm to broadband and consumers, the Internet Innovation Alliance again emphasizes its support for a bipartisan legislative solution to promote an Open Internet without overly burdensome Title II Common Carrier Regulations for 21st Century broadband. 

Friday, July 03

The Benefits of Regulation Must Outweigh the Burdens

By Brad

Last week, we held a discussion in Washington DC on how regulators can help — rather than hinder — the broadband economy. The featured speaker at this event was FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who delivered his vision for how the FCC and other regulatory bodies should fulfill their vital role in the face of the fast-moving technology. An excerpt from Commission O’Rielly’s speech:

As regulators consider proposals that would impact the Internet or the deployment of broadband, thoughtful analysis should be done prior to enactment to consider whether the costs and burdens imposed are greater than the benefits of acting. Given the amazing positives to be gained from an Internet free and open from government intrusion — or at least significant government intervention — there should be a universal requirement for quantifiable data under a cost-benefit analysis regime. It seems universally accepted that there are direct and indirect costs to every burden placed on Internet activities. It should be our duty to show the detailed costs and benefits of every proposal, not hypothetical claims that give short shrift to statutory requirements to do an actual analysis. If a regulator involved in some capacity with the Internet cannot accept this basic premise, maybe they are in the wrong line of work.

Let me also take a moment to provide a few other premises that most people who operate in this space accept: Internet-related taxes depress deployment and adoption; costs of regulations are ultimately passed onto consumers; and the structure of the Internet will produce some type of reaction to undermine any imposed regulation. If these premises are accepted, and they have proven to betrue time and time again, it means that regulators need to be extremely cautious in acting or risk decreasing deployment, or raising prices — and all for naught.

You can read Commissioner O’Rielly’s full remarks — and watch a video of the event, which also featured Stuart N. Brotman of the Brookings Institution, James Reid from TIA, Susan Bitter Smith of the Arizona Corporation Commission, and our own Bruce Mehlman — by clicking here.

Thursday, June 11

IIA Letter to FCC Regarding Lifeline

By Jamal Simmons

Earlier today, IIA sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler expressing our support for the Commission’s upcoming rulemaking proceeding soon to be initiated to advance Lifeline reform. From that letter, signed by IIA Chairmen Rick Boucher, Bruce Mehlman, Larry Irving, and Jamal Simmons:

“In the U.S., consumers with economic means have nearly ubiquitous access to broadband, yet almost two-thirds of our nation’s low-income community continues to seek that similar opportunity.  Without broadband availability, low-income families face an uphill battle in obtaining the American dream.

In bringing Lifeline into the 21st century, broadband should be included as an integral, more affordable offering of the program, and consumers should be empowered by providing the subsidy directly to eligible people instead of companies. Moreover, to enhance administrative efficiency, we urge the FCC to shift program eligibility verification away from companies that are not accountable to the American people, and instead allow states to verify eligibility for Lifeline at the same time they determine consumer eligibility for other federal low-income programs. Such ‘coordinated enrollment’ would benefit consumers by streamlining the eligibility process and ultimately enable subsidy recipients to receive a ‘Lifeline Benefit Card’ where consumers could apply the funds to the provider of their choosing. These reforms would make program participation for all service providers more attractive, thereby broadening consumer choice and stimulating competition for the low-income consumer purchasing power.

IIA applauds the Commission for quickly moving forward to initiate a new proceeding aimed to advance Lifeline reform this year. The time for reform is now, the need is great, and the goal is achievable.“

You can read the full letter here. Additionally, you can download our white paper on reforming the Lifeline program that we published last November.

Friday, May 29

eWeek on “Permanently Securing Net Neutrality”

By Brad

Originally published by eWeek. Reposted here with permission.

IIA Proposes Net Neutrality Legislation to Solve FCC Title II Dilemma

by Wayne Rash

At first, Rick Boucher’s idea seemed too good to be true. The former Democratic Congressman from Virginia was proposing an idea so radical that I had to check my notes to make sure I hadn’t been daydreaming.

The concept was a bipartisan bill that would give both Democrats and Republicans something each party wants and little or nothing they don’t.

Boucher, honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, offered draft legislation that would give the Democrats guaranteed, long term, net neutrality and Republicans something they really want, which is to return Internet access to being an information service rather than a telecommunications service, as it is under Title II. Perhaps more important, the bill that Boucher proposes doesn’t attempt to do anything else.

Boucher’s reasoning is based on a recent change of heart in Republican circles regarding net neutrality. Lately, it seems the party is OK with the concept as long as they eliminate the real problem they see with Title II, which is the reclassification. “What is so different today is that the Republicans have offered to the Democrats that range of network neutrality protection,” Boucher said.

“The Republicans have said that they’re willing to put strong protections for net neutrality in place and continue to have protection for information services,” Boucher explained. He said that for their part, the Democrats have told him that they’re willing to work with the Republicans as long as any legislation doesn’t become loaded down with provisions they can’t support.

“That way there’s only two moving parts,” Boucher said. The problem so far is that nobody on the Democratic side of the aisle has moved forward with discussions on how to draft legislation that would get bipartisan support. Now, with the move by the FCC to reclassify Internet access under Title II, Boucher thinks there may be an opening.

In a May 21 press conference held the day before our interview, Boucher and legal scholar Kathleen Sullivan, who is the former Dean of the Stanford Law School, pointed out how recent events could well result in all sides losing what they want. Sullivan pointed out that current legal challenges to the Title II reclassification could, and in fact are likely to, put the entire move by the FCC on hold.

But Boucher pointed out the looming danger that could come about in two years, a Republican win in the White House and a new, Republican-chaired FCC. He said that such an event could effectively undo everything the Democrats want, but also might undo everything the Republicans want, too.

Either way, it could tie up Internet regulation for years and, in the process, hurt innovation through years of uncertainty.

But there’s another potential stumbling block in this otherwise simple idea: that is, will the President sign such legislation? Boucher thinks he will, if only because the White House has been pushing the Title II reclassification is as a way to get net neutrality in place.

Unfortunately, as many people (including me) have mentioned, the FCC’s action doesn’t guarantee anything. A future FCC or a future White House can undo it in a heartbeat. This is why Boucher thinks bipartisan legislation is really the only good way to assure that net neutrality stands the test of time. Once it’s written into law, even the FCC can’t change it.

Of course the FCC doesn’t want to try, just as it has tried to rewrite the Communications Act to say what it wants. Sullivan pointed this out in her statement at the press conference as did Boucher, who is one of the authors of the current Communications Act.

“The Communications Act distinguishes between telecommunication services and information services,” Sullivan said in her presentation. “The Supreme Court has properly defined cable internet use as an information service. The FCC has reversed course and acted outside of the statute. Congress has not authorized this.”

By crafting and passing bipartisan legislation, both sides of the aisle in Congress can avoid outcomes they don’t want, Boucher said. “Democrats can protect net neutrality and Republicans can achieve a top policy priority which is to treat broadband as an information service.”

Boucher said he hopes that the House and Senate Commerce Committees can get the ball rolling. He pointed out that these committees tend to stay away from partisan politics and perhaps because of that continue to function in what is otherwise a politically gridlocked Congress.

Unfortunately, just because a bill makes a lot of sense, fixes a problem that many people believe badly needs fixing and is supported by both parties doesn’t mean it’ll ever see the light of day as a piece of proposed legislation.

The sad fact remains that despite general agreement on the need for a return to the way that the Internet was regulated before the Title II reclassification (meaning lightly if at all) and the agreement by nearly everyone from the Supreme Court on down that the Internet is an information service, getting legislation through Congress is problematic under even the best circumstances.

One can hope that Rick Boucher and the IIA can get this bill past dead center, but hope is about all that’s left.

Thursday, May 21

Permanently Securing Net Neutrality — Teleconference

By IIA

Earlier today, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and constitutional law expert Kathleen M. Sullivan participated in a teleconference to discuss the political and legal infirmities of the FCC’s recent net neutrality decision. The teleconference coincided with the release of IIA’s informational doc, “Permanently Securing Net Neutrality,” along with our timeline of light-touch regulation that has given consumers a vibrant Internet.

During the teleconference, Sullivan and Boucher discussed the political and legal fragilities of the FCC’s recent decision to impose public utility-style net neutrality rules on the broadband ecosystem, as well as the broader implications of Title II reclassification. Specifically:

How the FCC’s decision to reclassify broadband Internet access service as a “telecommunications service” subject to Title II common carrier regulation is contrary to nearly 50 years of FCC and Supreme Court precedent;

How the FCC failed to legally and factually justify its decision to abruptly reverse course; and

How the FCC now faces the real threat that its monopoly-era approach will be overturned either by a court or through the election of a Republican President that would alter the Commission’s leadership in 2017.

Our thanks to Kathleen M. Sullivan for participating in the teleconference. A recording of the discussion is embeded below:

Friday, May 15

Simmons Urges Congressional Action

By Brad

At CNBC, our Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons has an op-ed explaining how the Federal Communications Commission’s new open Internet rules could be swept away with the next presidential election, and how Congress should make permanent in law prohibitions against slowing, throttling and creating Internet fast lanes without imposing public utility-style regulation on broadband. An excerpt:

All those who care about preserving an open Internet that maintains the flexibility to innovate and develop new products and services without entrepreneurs having to seek government permission should support a new law. A new law won’t be perfect and will require both sides to make compromises, but it is a far better path to certainty and avoids legal and political wrangling that could tie advancement up for years, slowing down innovation and economic growth in the meantime.

Voters should ask Congress to pass an open Internet law before all attention turns to the presidential campaign. Otherwise, the next president will hold in her — or his — hands the future of the open Internet. Protecting such an important resource from the whims of shifting presidential political winds is among the most important things voters can do to keep the economy growing.

You can check out Simmons’ full op-ed over at CNBC.

Thursday, May 14

MMTC Sends Letter to FCC and Urges Modernization of Lifeline Program to Include Broadband

By Brad

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has assembled an impressive list of co-signers for a letter to the FCC encouraging the Commission to rapidly and comprehensively reform the Lifeline universal service program for the digital age. An excerpt from the letter:

Success in upgrading this 30 year-old program will require policy makers to embrace a new approach. Commissioner Clyburn outlined her thoughts on the subject in a 2012 speech at the American Enterprise Institute referencing immediate Lifeline reform where she stated that reform must occur in a manner that, “…increases the value of other federal investment, reduces administrative burdens, reduces incentives for waste, fraud and abuse, addresses privacy concerns of consumers, streamlines the program to encourage participation and leverages efficiencies from other programs.”

On behalf of the constituents that entrust our organizations to ensuring parity in telecommunications services and other public benefits, we believe that the Commission has the tools necessary to create a new twenty-first century model for the Lifeline program that would serve the needs of low income consumers in an efficient, secure and respectful fashion.

You can read the MMTC letter, which includes its recommendations on how best to reform Lifeline, at the FCC’s website. And for more on the subject, check out our white paper “Bringing the FCC’s Lifeline Program Into the 21st Century.”

Thursday, May 07

Commissioner Clyburn on Lifeline Reform

By Brad

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has penned an op-ed for Multichannel News on the need to reform the Commission’s Lifeline program. An excerpt:

The FCC’s Lifeline program, originally established in 1985, was designed to ensure that Americans have universal access to telephone service because it was found that such access was “crucial to full participation in our society and economy, which are increasingly depending upon the rapid exchange of information.” The FCC emphasized at the time that its “responsibilities under the Communications Act require us to take steps … to prevent degradation of universal service and the division of our society …  into information ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ ”
Today, a full three decades after the creation of Lifeline, the program still only funds voice service. It has been stuck in a bygone era since its inception and is in need of serious reform.

Commissioner Clyburn goes on to list her recommendations for reform, which include:

• Establishing minimum service standards for any provider that receives a Lifeline subsidy. This will ensure that we get the most value for each universal service dollar spent and better service for Lifeline recipients.

• Relieving providers of responsibility for determining customer eligibility. Lifeline is the only federal benefit program I know of where the provider determines the consumer’s eligibility. That must cease. For providers, this change would yield significant administrative savings, and for consumers, it would bring dignity to the program experience.

• Leveraging efficiencies from existing programs. A coordinated enrollment system would allow customers to enroll in Lifeline at the same time that they apply for other benefit programs; and

• Instituting public-private partnerships and coordinated outreach efforts. The lack of a centralized effort is leaving too many who qualify behind.

Commissioner Clyburn’s recommendations dovetail nicely with IIA’s own assessment of how best to bring Lifeline into the digital age. As we outlined in our white paper “Bringing the FCC’s Lifeline Program Into the 21st Century,” there are four key steps the FCC should make:

• Bring the Lifeline Program into the 21st Century by making broadband a key part of the program’s rubric;

• Empower consumers by providing the subsidy directly to eligible people instead of companies;

• Level the playing field between service providers to broaden consumer choice and stimulate competition for their purchasing power;

• Safeguard and simplify the program by taking administration away from companies that are not accountable to the American public, instead vesting that governmental responsibility with an appropriate government agency.

Friday, May 01

Boucher Returns to Sirius XM’s “Morning Briefing”

By Brad

Earlier today, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher returned to Sirius XM’s “Morning Briefing” to once again talk technology and regulations with host Tim Farley. Asked to respond to presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul’s pledge to overturn the FCC’s recent Title II classification, Boucher argued that a congressional repeal be ineffective (the President would simply veto the resolution), and that a bi-partisan bill offered by Republicans would be a better path — especially for Democrats, since the current net neutrality rules could be swept away in the next election.

Here’s audio of the interview.

Monday, April 13

Congress Needs to Act

By IIA

In response to the publication of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Title II Net Neutrality decision in the Federal Register, we encourage Congress to craft legislation in order to avoid legal challenges and market uncertainty. The publication of the decision starts the clock on potential legal challenges, and given that the FCC’s rules will soon take effect, Congress should use this window of opportunity for legislation that sets forth permanent rules to advance Internet openness, continued investment, and innovation in the nation’s vibrant 21st Century digital broadband economy.

Wednesday, April 08

Rick Boucher In The Hill

By Brad

This morning, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher had an op-ed published in The Hill encouraging Democrats to work across the aisle to legislatively ensure net neutrality is enshrined into law. An excerpt:

[W]hy, one may ask, would Democrats want to accept such an offer, since the FCC has now reclassified broadband as a telecommunications service, vesting the FCC with the power to apply a broad swath of common carrier rules to the Internet? Under that authority, the FCC can assure network neutrality and have residual power to regulate broadband providers in other ways that today are unforeseen. Why would Democrats want to give that up for a statute that only protects net neutrality?

The answer is both simple and compelling. The FCC’s reclassification decision rests on a bed of sand. It is highly impermanent and could be washed away with the next presidential election. Today’s seemingly firm network neutrality assurances are at serious risk of being lost in the future.

You can read Boucher’s full op-ed over at The Hill.

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