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 'Rick Boucher'

Monday, September 15

Regarding Title II Reclassification

By IIA

This morning, IIA filed Reply Comments with the FCC urging the Commission to embrace its 706 Authority instead of Title II reclassification in order to preserve an open Internet. In our comments we warned that reclassification would reverser decades of Commission precedent and potentially hurt the Internet ecosystem’s continued success and future of innovation.

Section 706 has worked well to protect the open Internet that everyone wants to preserve, while minimizing harm to investment and innovation. Section 706 remains viable and effective. By contrast, Title II is an antiquated regulatory framework designed for the era of monopoly telephone service that would undermine today’s competitive broadband marketplace and disserve consumers, dissuade entrepreneurs and inject unnecessary regulatory uncertainty threatening future dynamism in the broadband ecosystem.

— IIA Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman

Reliance on Section 706, we argue, enables proper balance between necessary regulation to advance such goals as consumer protection and the imperative of attracting new investment to broadband to ensure further deployments of ever-fast systems that will support the applications of tomorrow. It is also the only way to ensure the innovation and continued explosive growth necessary to meet the ambitious goals of the National Broadband Plan.

The FCC already has enough authority under Section 706 to keep the Internet open with high-speed access for consumers and flexibility for entrepreneurs to innovate. Reclassifying broadband as a utility is like using a sledgehammer when a screwdriver will suffice. Title II is a blunt instrument that might break the Internet’s record of innovation and investment, while Section 706 is a better tool for fixing any problems that arise.

— IIA Co-Chairman Jamal Simmons

Title II, we also note, was not the primary catalyst behind the massive investment that occurred following the enactment of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and that if regulators wanted an example of the chilling effect Title II could have on broadband, Europe offers a good example.

European policies built on extensive, public utility-style regulation and wholesale network unbundling have depressed broadband investment and access to next-generation networks overseas, as fully 82% of U.S. consumers enjoy access to high-speed broadband networks compared to only 54% of European consumers. Section 706 fortunately offers us an alternative path that will enable the private investment necessary to deploy modern broadband networks—wireline, wireless, and cable—and continue the virtuous circle fueled by light-touch regulation of the Internet ecosystem.

— IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher

To read our Reply Comments in full, visit here.

Tuesday, July 08

Making the Leap

By Brad

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds more Americans than ever are moving away from traditional landline phone service. As The Hill’s Julian Hattem reports:

More than 4 in 10 American homes are landline phone-free and relying exclusively on cellphone service, according to a government survey released Tuesday.

That’s an increase over recent years, yet the growth of cellphone-only households might be slowing over time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded.

The CDC has been mapping cellphone usage for years. The new analysis covered the last six months of 2013.

Given this ongoing trend of people giving up the traditional phone — along with the increasing cost of maintaining the network millions are leaving, it’s no surprise the FCC is currently working with carriers to sunset the traditional network in favor of Internet-powered networks.

For more on the transition to all-IP networks, check out this op-ed from our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher on a beta trial underway in Florida.

Friday, June 20

U.S. v. Europe: Who’s Winning the Broadband Race?

By Rick Boucher

4756_Boucher.gif

We’ll find out soon enough whether the U.S. soccer team can survive the World Cup’s “Group of Death” with two strong European competitors (England and Germany). But for broadband, it’s clear who’s winning:  the U.S.

It’s basic economics that if we as a society want less of something—for instance, smoking—we will impose a tax on it or restrict it by regulation, and consumption will fall. The opposite is also true: if we want more of something, deregulation and lower taxes will, by the operation of markets, lead to more of it.

The price, availability and quality of broadband follows the same rules. If we want more and faster broadband—and we do—then excessive and inappropriate regulation of broadband, such as some activists’ proposals for “Title II” common carrier regulation, is the wrong way to go. On top of all the legal and technological problems Title II would bring, we can confidently predict that it would sharply inhibit broadband investment.

A new paper from Christopher Yoo of Penn Law School’s Center for Technology Innovation and Competition takes a fresh look at the data and shows that the US is far ahead of Europe on virtually every relevant metric of broadband deployment. The reason, not surprisingly, is that the US regulates broadband lightly while European countries impose investment crippling wholesale unbundling requirements on broadband providers.

Res ipsa loquitur, the lawyers like to say, and Yoo says exactly that: “The data speak for themselves, and the empirical evidence confirms that the United States is performing much better than Europe in the high-speed broadband race[.]” 

Look at the data from different angles (as CTIC’s interactive micro-site permits), and it tells the same story: access to next-generation networks (over 25 Mbps), the U.S. leads 82% to 54%; access to next-generation networks in rural areas, 48% to 12%; and LTE coverage, 86% to 27%.  Unsurprisingly given these figures, the U.S. (meaning U.S. network operators) invests more than twice as much per household as Europe does—$562 vs. $244.  Better service, with less packet loss in the U.S.. And entry-level broadband prices are lower here, too.

Why is the U.S. winning? It all comes down to fundamentally different models of regulation and the incentives each provides for investment: Europe relies on regulations that treat broadband as a public utility and foster competition among multiple leased access providers on incumbent provider platforms. New entrants lease incumbents’ facilities at wholesale cost (also known as unbundling). The U.S. regulatory light- touch has generally left buildout, maintenance, operation and modernization of Internet infrastructure to private companies and focuses on promoting facilities-based competition, in which new entrants are expected to construct their own networks.

The regulatory structure government chooses directly affects broadband availability, quality and price.

Focus on that investment statistic for a minute: there’s over twice as much investment per household in the U.S. as in Europe, which leads to more coverage.

We’ve already had a glimpse of what can happen if the U.S. government tries a different path, that of Title II regulation. When the FCC announced in 2010 that it was considering Title II reclassification of broadband as a possible approach to ensuring network neutrality, there was an immediate negative effect on the stock prices of the network operators who were deploying broadband across the country. On average, the market capitalization of the four largest ISPs in the United States lost a combined $18 billion and the market value of one of those entities dropped 15% overnight. The ability of these companies to acquire the financing necessary for aggressive broadband deployment diminishes as their value in the market declines. This was but one early sign of the kinds of problems that broadband providers will encounter in continuing their world leading broadband deployment performance if the FCC turns to Title II regulation.

So the light regulatory model of the U.S. brings greater adoption, more investment, and faster speeds, while due to the heavy-handed leased access regime on which Europe built its policies, the continent is now lagging far behind.

None of this is surprising to anyone who knows a bit of economics, but it’s a useful reminder as the FCC considers what sort of rules would best achieve our nation’s broadband goals. We can ill afford to neglect history and economics by imposing telephone-era, public utility regulation that will dampen investment at precisely the moment when carriers will have to undertake even greater expenditures to acquire spectrum in the upcoming incentive auction and then spend more to deploy facilities to bring wireless broadband to the entire US population at 4G levels. As Yoo writes, “we have a real-world basis for assessing the impact of imposing telephone-style regulation on the Internet[.] As regulators in the United States contemplate rules for next-generation networks, it would be wise to consider how going down the path of stiff telephone-era regulation has fared elsewhere.”

Because whatever happens in Brazil, the U.S. has already beaten Europe in the broadband competition for economic growth.

Monday, May 19

Boucher on C-SPAN

By Brad

IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher recently sat down with fellow former Representative Jack Fields on C-SPAN’s The Communicators to talk about the 1996 Telecommunications Act (which both congressman were instrumental in crafting) and how to update for our current technological reality. You can watch the interview here.

Wednesday, May 07

Enhancing Mobile Broadband Spectrum in Rural America

By Rick Boucher

5714_Boucher.jpg

In the upcoming incentive auction for wireless spectrum, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeks to advance widespread deployment of mobile broadband in rural America with the infusion of additional 600 MHz “low” band spectrum into the wireless market.

What’s the best approach to achieving the goal of expanded rural service? Don’t restrict the auction by cutting out companies that currently serve rural America and want to expand their presence there.

FCC Chairman Wheeler kicked off a lively debate on this issue in his recent blog post maintaining that:

“The low-band spectrum we will auction is particularly valuable because it has physical properties that increase the reach of mobile networks over long distances at far less cost than spectrum above 1GHz. Today, however, two national carriers control the vast majority of that low-band spectrum. This disparity makes it difficult for rural consumers to have access to the competition and choice that would be available if more wireless competitors also had access to low-band spectrum.”

While no disagreement exists on the need for more spectrum and the policy goal of expanding mobile broadband availability in rural America, the realities of today’s marketplace suggest an alternative view on the best way to bring affordable and ubiquitous mobile broadband services to more of America’s heartland.

Sprint and T-Mobile contend that that the success of the spectrum auction depends on the FCC’s ability to limit AT&T (T) and Verizon’s (VZ) future spectrum purchases. Yet, neither Sprint (S) nor T-Mobile (TMUS) has publicly committed to use any additional spectrum to serve rural America. Instead, a recent study by Dr. Anna Maria Kovacs reveals that these wireless entities have informed Wall Street that they would limit high-speed wireless broadband coverage to a population of only 250 million. For America’s rural consumers, their plan means far less broadband service coverage from Sprint and T-Mobile than what these companies offer to their existing voice service customers. In fact, it appears that their goal in utilizing new spectrum is to limit enhanced broadband service mainly to the nation’s urban centers.

If satisfying Wall Street’s demands for Sprint and T-Mobile to use newly acquired spectrum only to serve revenue-rich urban and suburban broadband customers is the nation’s primary goal, the FCC may be on the right track. On the other hand, if expanding mobile broadband deployment to rural Americans everywhere, from the mountains of western Virginia to the open ranges of the West, best serves the public interest, the FCC may want to choose a different path.

Unlike Sprint and T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon have stressed that they will use additional spectrum to serve nearly a population of 300,000,000, bringing advanced mobile broadband services to less densely populated areas. In fact, these companies already serve large portions of rural America directly (not just through partners), offering the same competitive nationwide pricing and calling plans that they offer in the suburbs or cities.

Excluding certain companies from the auction in an attempt to engineer greater “competition” isn’t going to work. Modern broadband networks require significant capital investment to build out these new services to difficult-to-reach populations. The companies that are most likely to make that capital investment are the ones who currently serve rural America and have announced their intention to expand rural access with newly acquired spectrum.

Availability of high-speed mobile broadband depends on service providers that agree to actually deploy cell towers there—something both Sprint and T-Mobile have failed to commit to doing in the future. They seem perfectly content to focus their core efforts on areas where revenue per square mile will be highest. The “back 40” of Manhattan contains a lot more people, after all, than the back 40 of a ranch in New Mexico or Montana.

While these two foreign-owned entities are free to advance their business interests in Washington and Wall Street corridors, America’s rural customers depend on the FCC to separate fact from fiction and help deliver broadband to every corner of the nation.

Non-existent investment commitments and theories on managed competition are no basis to rig an auction. If we seek a real “pop” in high-speed mobile broadband use in rural America, let’s look at the population each company has agreed to serve. Our spectrum policies shouldn’t exclude from the auction the prospective bidders who have actually announced plans to serve more of America’s heartland.

Wednesday, April 16

House Dems to the FCC

By IIA

imgres.jpg

As the FCC continues to design its upcoming incentive spectrum auction, 78 House Democrats have penned a letter — led by Congressmen John Barrow and Bennie G. Thompson — encouraging the Commission to maximize the benefits of the auction by ensuring they are open to all entities willing to bid. An excerpt from the letter:

For the auction to be a success, the Commission should maximize participation by both broadcasters incented to relinquish their spectrum rights and bidders seeking to buy those rights in the spectrum auction. In fact, inviting as many bidders as possible to compete in an open and fair auction on equal terms will allow for the full market price for spectrum to be realized and, in turn, lead to higher compensation to incent greater broadcaster participation resulting in more spectrum for the auction.

We agree with the position taken by the House Democrats. As our Honorary Chairman, former Congressman Rick Boucher, wrote in an op-ed for Light Reading last year:

In order to meet these multiple needs simultaneously, it’s essential that the auction be open to all financially qualified bidders. Some have suggested that the largest mobile carriers be restricted in their ability to participate fully in the auction in order to favor smaller carriers. Limiting the ability of the largest carriers to purchase the spectrum their customers are demanding will mean fewer services for consumers and lower auction proceeds, rendering very difficult the challenge of meeting all of the competing and urgent demands for the auction revenues.

Moreover, it is not at all clear that spectrum acquisition restrictions on the largest carriers would actually promote competition.

Monday, April 14

The Man in the Chair

By Brad

At the Washington Post, Cecilia Kang has an extensive profile of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. An excerpt:

“I’m not sitting here sucking eggs,” Wheeler said at his first public meeting in November, a warning shot of what was to come. “I’m looking seriously at these issues.”

Such candor has defied early assumptions about President Obama’s FCC pick. The former lobbyist was pegged by many as a lame-duck regulator, likely to lay low and stick to worker-bee issues.

Instead, the 68-year-old has eagerly grasped a national megaphone on the defining — and the utterly arcane — telecom policy issues of the day.

Kang’s full profile is worth checking out. And for an extensive look at the issues Wheeler’s FCC faces, read our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher’s op-ed from November for Bloomberg Government.

Tuesday, April 08

Looking Back and Looking Forward: The VIdeo

By Brad

Miss our Internet Academy on the future of America’s telecommunications policy yesterday? We’ve got you covered.

Monday, April 07

Talking Communications Policy

By Brad

Earlier today we held our latest Internet Academy, which featured former House Energy and Commerce Chairmen Rick Boucher and Jack Field discussing the past and future of America’s communications policies. We’ll have archive of the event up soon, but in the meantime, The Hill‘s Julian Hattern has a write-up. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 26

Looking Back and Looking Forward: America’s Communications Policy

By Brad

The last significant revision of the Communications Act occurred in 1996. Since then, innovation and competitive markets have dramatically altered the way consumers receive communications services. While the world of phones, computers, and the Internet has completely changed over the last 18 years, the nation’s telecommunications regulatory framework remains the same.

With the House Committee on Energy and Commerce seeking recommendations on how best to modernize the Communications Act, our next Internet Academy will feature two key architects of the 1996 Act, IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher and former House Energy and Commerce Chairman Jack Fields.

Boucher and Fields will discuss a wide range of policy issues, including:

• The pervasive and rapidly developing role of broadband networks in the delivery of modern communications, in contrast to the market landscape in 1996.

• How Current policy impacts broadband investment.

• The obstacles and opportunities facing lawmakers as they embark on modernizing the legal and regulatory framework that oversees the nation’s communications industry.

• Recommendations to help spur investment and innovation in America’s 21st Century digital economy.

Our Internet Academy will take place on Monday, April 7 at 9:30 am at Rayburn 2322 in Washington, D.C. A continental breakfast will be served. To RSVP or to receive more information about the event, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Monday, March 10

Boucher in Florida

By Brad

31014_Boucher.jpg

In an op-ed for the Sun-Sentinel in Florida, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher breaks down what the FCC’s IP transition test trial for a community in Delray will mean for residents. An excerpt:

You may have heard by now that Kings Point in Delray is one of two communities in the country that soon may get a Federal Communications Commission -sponsored test of a new broadband communications network to replace today’s telephone network.

While some of us may have an idle phone bolted to the wall, that’s no longer the case for the majority of Americans. Two-thirds have fled the outdated, copper-wire network entirely. In fact, only five percent of American households still rely on it exclusively.

The old telephone network, first invented by Alexander Graham Bell, is wearing out. And as with most technology of yesteryear, it has severely limited functions and capabilities.

You can read Boucher’s full op-ed at the Sun-Sentinal.

Friday, February 28

Boucher Gives AT&T-Announced Locations for IP Trials Vote of Confidence

By IIA

22814_Boucher.jpg

From IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher:

Every month, 450,000 people make the transition from the old circuit-switched network to the new, IP-based world of telecommunications. Two-thirds of Americans have fled the old phone network entirely, and only five percent use it as their sole means of communication. It’s clear that consumers prefer newer products, services, and technologies in place of the old. Just as the telegraph once gave way to the telephone, and analog gave way to digital, so we stand at the threshold of another revolution in communication, as Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone network gives way to the advanced IP broadband networks of tomorrow. In fact, by the end of this decade a sunset should occur for the antiquated circuit-switched telephone network.

As a key step in reaching that goal, in its filing today, AT&T has accepted the FCC’s call for the initiation of trials in select local markets where consumers will rapidly be transitioned from the old network to modern broadband communications platforms. The company in its filing underscored a thorough ongoing commitment to the core network values the Commission seeks to promote. Far from being a “regulation-free zone,” the future vision for an all-IP world is one in which communications services are accessible, secure, and reliable. Using the core values of universal service, consumer protection, public safety, reliability, and competition as its guidepost, the FCC can help speed investment in advanced networks that bring the benefits of high-speed broadband to everyone.

During the upcoming trials – to be held under the direct supervision of the FCC – government, consumers, and industry will all work together, in an open and transparent manner, to learn what can go wrong when the consumers who remain on the old telephone network are rapidly transitioned to modern broadband communications. With information from the trials, solutions can be put in place to ensure that the nationwide transition is a success for everyone.  And at this stage and throughout the trials, the traditional phone network will remain in place, providing protections, a kind of safety net, for those who still depend on the old system for essential communications needs.

As we move forward, I’m confident that the IP networks and services to be tested will exceed both consumers’ and the FCC’s expectations for service, reliability, and consumer protection.

Wednesday, February 19

Let’s Get Nerdy – Episode One

By IIA

We’re excited to announce a new video series we’ve put together that we’re calling “Let’s Get Nerdy.” The goal is to take tech policy issues that are currently top of mind in our nation’s capital and explain how they are relevant to Americans across the map. With a series of questions, an expert will guide us through a deep-dive into the topic of the month.

For our first installment, we interviewed a lawmaking legend (who also happens to be our Honorary Chairman), former Congressman Rick Boucher. Congressman Boucher was a key participant in the construction of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and here he answers three questions about a huge initiative being spearheaded by the House Energy & Commerce Committee to update the Telecommunications Act to reflect the technology of today.

Ready to get nerdy? Let’s go!

At the Silicon Flatirons conference, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler shared this excerpt from the book Digital Crossroads. “When, in 1996, Congress last enacted major revisions to the [Telecommunications] Act, it did not clearly foresee the rise of broadband Internet access services, let alone their eventual centrality to all forms of electronic communications.” What did the market look like in 1996, and how has it changed?


In a recent editorial for The Hill newspaper, you pointed out that most consumers — essentially, anyone who has a cellphone or who gets telephone service from a cable provider — have already made the switch to 21st century high-speed broadband networks without government action. What role can Congress and the FCC play to accelerate and complete the so-called IP (or Internet Protocol) Transition?


The IP Transition is fundamental to the mobile revolution of which we’re all a part. Consumers have proven that they have an insatiable thirst for wireless services that run on the limited, invisible airwaves known as spectrum. As it looks to update the Telecommunications Act, what can the House Energy & Commerce Committee do to help ensure that carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have the spectrum needed to keep up with consumer demand?


Our thanks to Congressman Boucher for sharing his unique perspective on regulatory modernization as a key architect of the ‘96 Telecommunications Act. Until next time, stay nerdy!

Tuesday, February 11

Small Steps

By Brad

FCC_14.jpg

Any update to the Communications Act will take a while to make happen, especially since — as Julian Hattern for The Hill highlights today — the Senate is unlikely to get started soon:

The Senate won’t be following the House’s lead this year to overhaul the sweeping law regulating the TV, radio and other communications services, which has not been updated since the rapid growth of the Internet.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has begun to probe ways to bring the Communications Act into the 21st Century, but Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said on Tuesday that the Senate Commerce Committee, of which he is a member, probably won’t be following suit in 2014.

I doubt we’ll do anything this year but I know that the House has been saying that they want to open that and certainly we’ll be seeing what they want to do,” said Pryor, chairman of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on Communications, at a winter meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Washington.

Still, any step toward updating the relic of an Act is a positive one. As our own Rick Boucher — who played a major part in the last update of the Communications Act — wrote in a recent op-ed for Roll Call. As Boucher wrote:

Today, the FCC is both catching up and leading. It must catch up to the large majority of Americans who have made their own personal transition to smartphones, tablets and other devices that provide 24/7 connectivity to the Internet and its treasure trove of information and entertainment. At the same time, the agency also must lead by joining Congress in crafting an updated regulatory framework that supports continued innovation and network expansion and extending a helping hand to guide the minority of Americans who have not yet joined the digital world.

To complete the journey, Congress and the FCC must clear the road of outdated rules that made sense for the telephone monopoly era of the 20th century but which now slow the shift to the multitasking digital networks of the future. For example, the old rules require local phone companies to invest billions of dollars every year in the old voice telephone network that droves of Americans abandon every day. Every dollar spent on the aging, single-purpose analog phone system consumers are fleeing is one less dollar invested in multifunctional modern digital networks consumers prefer.

Thursday, February 06

Boucher Looks Forward

By Brad

Back in 1996, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher played a major role in crafting the Telecommunications Act. For the Act’s 18th anniversary, he penned an op-ed for The Hill arguing that outdated regulations and the shift to broadband-based networks need to be the focus of any Act going forward. As Boucher writes:

The ’96 Act accomplished everything we intended. It unleashed a golden era of competition, service improvements, technological advancements and massive investments in high-speed broadband-capable networks. With the right public policies in place — policies favoring investments and newer technologies consumers want — this golden age will continue for all Americans.

The transition to IP networks, and the policy modernization that will accompany it, represent the largest telecom changes since the ’96 Act. It’s going to be an exciting several years.

Check out Boucher’s full op-ed at The Hill.

Wednesday, February 05

Boucher Talks Digital Networks

By Brad

Our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher penned an op-ed for Roll Call yesterday examining the FCC’s recent push toward all-digital network technology. Here’s a taste:

Today, the FCC is both catching up and leading. It must catch up to the large majority of Americans who have made their own personal transition to smartphones, tablets and other devices that provide 24/7 connectivity to the Internet and its treasure trove of information and entertainment. At the same time, the agency also must lead by joining Congress in crafting an updated regulatory framework that supports continued innovation and network expansion and extending a helping hand to guide the minority of Americans who have not yet joined the digital world.

To complete the journey, Congress and the FCC must clear the road of outdated rules that made sense for the telephone monopoly era of the 20th century but which now slow the shift to the multitasking digital networks of the future.

Check out Boucher’s full op-ed at Roll Call.

Monday, February 03

Answering Upton and Walden’s Call

By IIA

2314_Boucher.jpg

Rick Boucher, honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), today released his recommendations on modernization of communications industry regulation, in response to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s request for input on the future of the law. Boucher served for 28 years in the House of Representatives, where he chaired the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet and was a key architect of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

“Since 1996, the way in which consumers receive communications services of all kinds has dramatically transformed,” explained Boucher. “Today’s laws severely lag technological and marketplace advancements—comprehensive statutory telecommunications reform for the 21st Century is vital.”

In December, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden launched a comprehensive #CommActUpdate, including a series of white papers as the first step toward rewriting the laws governing the communications and technology sector. To read the first white paper released on January 8, visit http://1.usa.gov/1iVVvBE.

During the last significant revision of the Communications Act 18 years ago, telephone companies offered telephone service through signals delivered over circuit-switched networks; cable companies used coaxial cables to deliver multi-channel video service; the wireless industry was in its adolescence; and the Internet was in an early stage of commercial use. Today, telephone, cable and wireless companies offer the combination of voice, video, and data to their customers in digital format over packet-routed networks that employ Internet Protocol (IP); there are more wireless than wireline communications customers; and the use of the Internet for the delivery of information of all kinds is becoming ubiquitous. 

“A date should be set by the end of this decade to ‘sunset’ the public switched network and replace it with Internet-based communications platforms that are highly efficient, scalable , resilient and readily capable of handling voice, data or video communications,” commented Boucher.

Boucher recommends that the Committee initiate legislative reforms that:

1. Recognize the pervasive and rapidly developing role of broadband networks in the delivery of modern communications and the urgent need for deregulatory parity among similarly situated broadband service providers.

2. Reaffirm the current light-touch regulatory approach to broadband that broadly stimulates investment in networks and promotes both job creation and innovation.

3. Realign the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) regulatory structure to match current marketplace and technological realities, recognizing today’s cross-platform competition in which telephone, cable and wireless carriers compete head-to-head in the provision of voice, video, and data services.

4. Eliminate existing duplicative or unnecessary functions at the FCC, including its duplication of the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission’s role in reviewing communications merger transactions. 

5. Enable the near-term reallocation of significant swaths of government-held spectrum for commercial auction to help address the existing spectrum deficit facing commercial wireless carriers.
6. Facilitate secondary market transactions among spectrum holders and encourage streamlined processes to enhance the efficiency of spectrum use as additional mechanisms to address the nation’s spectrum crisis.

To review Boucher’s recommendations on addressing modern communications policy needs in full, visit here.

 

Friday, January 17

Broadband at Home & Abroad

By Rick Boucher

11714_Boucher_Small.jpg

Just before the end of 2013, the New York Times published the article “U.S. Struggles to Keep Pace in Delivering Broadband Service,” a piece that compared broadband deployment in the States with the likes of the Latvian capital of Riga and Seoul, South Korea.

The problem is, the article failed to do justice to the success of U.S. broadband providers in serving customers. It was also misleading in its use of Riga and Seoul as the standard for broadband measurement; the article could as easily have cited Kansas City, with its 1 gigabit speeds, and found the rest of the world to be inadequate in comparison.

Here’s a better gauge of broadband deployment: The National Telecommunications and Information Administration reports that the U.S., despite its vast geography and dispersed cities, has higher average speeds and lower prices than Europe generally. In fact, entry-level broadband pricing in the U.S. is the second lowest globally, behind Israel, according to the International Telecommunications Union.

I wasn’t the only one baffled by the Times’ approach. At this morning’s AEI Tech Policy Summit, Roslyn Layton, Ph.D. of the Center for Communications, Media and Information Technologies — who also lives in Denmark — tackled the Times’ article directly, telling attendees, “I always hear that everything is better in Europe… there are pockets of next-generation service, but it’s hardly a ‘utopia.’”

Layton also highlighted the fact that U.S. broadband investment is two times greater than investment in the European Union, and that, as she put it, “The U.S. is getting one quarter of all the money being invested in broadband networks across the world.”

That’s a lot of investment, and as a result of all that private money flowing into networks, America now has both fixed and wireless broadband systems that are fast, robust, and affordable – all thanks to a light-touch regulatory framework that encouraged some $1.2 trillion in investment since 1996, with billions more expected as more spectrum is made available for wireless broadband. In contrast, Europe’s highly-regulatory, leased access regime has limited broadband infrastructure investment and slowed deployment of next-generation networks.

Riga and Seoul may have faster speeds, but when it comes to deployment of broadband, they’re anomalies rather than benchmarks. Contrary to the inference in the Times’ article, the U.S., with its pro-investment regulatory policy, has eclipsed all of Europe in both network speed and affordability. That’s not a struggle, it’s a success.

Friday, January 10

A Busy Year for the FCC

By Brad

-Barometer.png

At the official blog of the Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Tom Wheeler lays out the Commission’s commitment to achieving the transition to all-Internet based networks. As the Chairman writes:

Among the biggest changes the FCC must confront are the IP transitions. Note the use of the plural “transitions.” Circuit switching is being replaced by more efficient networks – made of fiber or copper or wireless. Greater efficiency in networks can translate into greater innovation and greater benefits for network operators and users alike.

The best way to speed technology transitions is to incent network investment and innovation by preserving the enduring values that consumers and businesses have come to expect. Those values: public safety, interconnection, competition, consumer protection and, of course, universal access, are not only familiar, they are fundamental.

Those very same values were highlighted by our own Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher in an op-ed for Bloomberg Government in November:

Government must play a key role throughout this process by advancing consumer interests with a transition plan guided by core principles. These basic protections will remain government’s responsibility even after the old phone system is shut down:

1. The commitment to universal service must endure. Next-generation high-speed broadband networks and their benefits must be available to every American. As we move beyond the old phone network, we cannot leave anybody behind. Without dictating specific technologies or micro-managing how communications competitors meet their public service obligations, we must push the envelope to ensure that every American can access modern broadband service and enjoy the benefits that come with it. At a minimum, post transition everybody should enjoy service at least as good as they can now receive from copper-wire phone networks.

2. Public safety must be assured. 911 emergency calls must go through—every single time—no matter what technology or services consumers adopt.

3. Services for the hearing-impaired and those with vision problems also must be retained at levels that at least match what consumers enjoy today.

4. Consumer protection must remain at the heart of communications policy. Consumers must know that government has their back; that service providers will deliver on their promises; that spotty service, fraud, or other abuses will not be tolerated. Consumers must have a place to take complaints with confidence that something will be done about them.

5. Establishing a backup plan for power failures should be part of the transition process. The rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy exposed some potential weaknesses in the way our digital technology works today. While fiber-optic-based systems tolerate water damage that can short out copper wires, they are more vulnerable when the electricity at the user’s premises goes out.

6. Special retrofitting and other creative solutions may be required to ensure that modern networks function fully with personal and business equipment such as fax machines, security systems, health monitors, and credit card readers, even though they may not currently be compatible with today’s broadband connections.

While it’s encouraging Chairman Wheeler is taking the plunge when it comes to the IP Transition, in reality it’s just one of the major issues the FCC will face under his watch. As our Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman argued in December, outdated regulations could make many of the FCC’s work difficult:

At the FCC, Wheeler inherits a regulatory regime designed decades ago for an earlier era. Voice and video services are regulated under separate provisions of the Communications Act of 1934 (Title II and Title VI, respectively) based on assumptions of a permanent monopoly and massive barriers to entry. The Act and its subsequent amendments fundamentally fail to acknowledge the competitive alternatives created by the technological and marketplace convergence of the broadband age. Today’s FCC-enforced regulatory framework was designed for a world without Netflix Inc., Skype Communications, Google Inc., or iPhones — a world without the Internet. Thus, the agency remains stuck in the past, distinguishing among companies based on the technology they use and their legacy status under the Act. Consumers make no such distinctions.

That Chairman Wheeler and the Commissioners at the FCC are already rolling up their sleeves for the IP Transition should be applauded. But it’s just one of many issues the Commission needs to dive into in the next 12 months.

Wednesday, January 08

Time for an Overhaul

By Brad

Via Julian Hattem of The Hill, two Republican lawmakers have taken a deep dive into the 1996 Communications Act and are urging a major overhaul:

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its communications and technology subcommittee, released a white paper outlining flaws that have emerged since the law was last updated more than a decade ago. The paper is the first action in the multi-year effort to update the landmark Communications Act.

The 1934 law created and outlined the powers of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), but has not been significantly modernized since 1996.

Updating the law “is critical to ensuring that the communications and technology sectors, the bright spot of our national economy, have laws and regulations that foster continued innovation and job creation,” Upton and Walden said in a joint statement. “This is the first step in a multi-year open and transparent effort and we look forward to broad input from the many interested parties.”

The Reps.’ white paper is available here. On a related note, our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher — who was chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet when the 1996 Act was put together, marked the 17th anniversary of the Act back in February. As he wrote then in an op-ed for Roll Call:

Seventeen years after the 1996 Telecommunications Act was signed into law, we find ourselves at another major inflection point. The IP transition is already under way, driven by technological advances and consumer preferences. FCC Chairman Genachowski has taken farsighted steps to create a process for addressing the policy questions that transition brings, and one of the giants of the industry has made helpful suggestions for a national dialogue through a single, focused proceeding for clarity and meaningful participation by all interested parties.

It is my hope that regulators can, once again, come to a consensus on how best to regulate fairly. Only with a level playing field will competition thrive and more investment in America’s broadband infrastructure increase. Let the conversation begin.

Page 1 of 4 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »

« Back to Blog Home