Press Releases

USF reform, spectrum efficiency, and combining AT&T and T-Mobile will drive deployment, availability and adoption of broadband Internet.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 14, 2011 – Reforming the Universal Service Fund (USF) for the broadband era, using spectrum more efficiently and the joining of AT&T and T-Mobile offer the best hope for meaningfully advancing broadband deployment and availability in 2011, according to the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a broad-based coalition supporting broadband access and adoption for all Americans, particularly increased mobile connectivity for underserved and rural communities. With former Congressman Rick Boucher and political analyst Jamal Simmons joining IIA Founder Bruce Mehlman in the Alliance’s efforts, the IIA outlined its current Top Three Priorities, as follows.

Universal Service Fund Reform

“The nation’s foremost telecommunications challenge is the need for universal broadband,” said IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher, a former Congressman from Virginia who chaired the Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet and cofounded the Congressional Internet Caucus. “Broadband is the bridge that ties rural communities to the American economic mainstream. The widespread deployment of high-speed Internet services promotes a national connectivity that benefits both rural and metropolitan interests.”

For decades, the primary purpose of USF had been to fund voice service through the equivalent of a tax on inter-state phone services. The IIA strongly supports the Federal Communication Commission’s unanimous decision in February to adopt a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) that focuses on reforming the Universal Service Fund to include broadband. Modernization of the USF to bring high-speed Internet services to unserved and underserved areas is a major step toward achieving universal broadband.

More Efficient Use of Spectrum

“Given the explosion of broadband-enabled traffic, our nation urgently needs more spectrum to continue fueling our high tech engine,” said IIA Founder and Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman. “We can’t make spectrum, so we have to make sure it is efficiently used and identify policies that encourage innovation so more can be done with the spectrum that is available.”

In line with IIA’s longstanding focus on the exaflood – the exponential explosion of digital content on the Internet through additional users and new bandwidth-hungry applications – the Alliance foresees ever-growing opportunities for our economy and our nation – as long as we have the Internet infrastructure in place to support it. Wireless technology faces challenges and constraints similar to land-based broadband with a limited amount of spectrum available to support the burgeoning population of mobile users.

AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

“Expanded availability and reliability of wireless broadband are the most important benefits of uniting AT&T and T-Mobile,” said IIA Co-Chair Jamal Simmons. “When it comes to telecommunications policy, the true underdogs are underserved Americans in rural areas and communities of color throughout the country who need better access to high-speed broadband Internet. Bringing the assets and resources of these two companies together should give them this [access].”

After reviewing the business plans for the proposed joining of AT&T and T-Mobile, submissions made to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), analyses by experts in technology and finance and assessments by community leaders, the IIA believes that uniting the strengths of AT&T and T-Mobile will move our nation significantly closer to achieving universal broadband, advancing our society across the board. The combined resources of the two companies will bring 4G LTE, with wireless speeds approximating the fastest wired connections to more than 97 percent of Americans, advancing education, health care, our economy and high-tech innovation, and particularly, opportunities in rural areas and communities of color.