Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Obama Calls for Municipal Broadband Support

President Obama is calling for new measures to promote faster and more affordable broadband by supporting municipal networks and spurring competition.

Key elements of the plan, as outlined by the White House:

Calling to End Laws that Harm Broadband Service Competition - opposing laws in 19 states that limit the range of options available to communities to spur expanded local broadband infrastructure, including ownership of networks. The Obama Administration will urge the FCC to address barriers inhibiting local communities from responding to the broadband needs of their citizens.

Expanding the National Movement of Local Leaders for Better Broadband - offering support for the Next Century Cities coalition, a nonpartisan network pledging to bring fast, community-supported broadband to their towns and cities. In June 2015 the White House will host a Community Broadband Summit of mayors and county commissioners from around the nation who are joining this movement for broadband solutions and economic revitalization. These efforts will also build on the US Ignite partnership, launched by White House in 2012, and which has grown to include more than 65 research universities and 35 cities in developing new next-generation gigabit applications.

Announcing a New Initiative to Support Community Broadband Projects - the Department of Commerce is launching a new BroadbandUSA initiative to promote broadband deployment and adoption. Building on expertise gained from overseeing the $4.7 billion Broadband Technology Opportunities Program funded through the Recovery Act, BroadbandUSA will offer online and in-person technical assistance to communities; host a series of regional workshops around the country; and publish guides and tools that provide communities with proven solutions to address problems in broadband infrastructure planning, financing, construction, and operations across many types of business models.

Unveiling New Grant and Loan Opportunities for Rural Providers - The Department of Agriculture is accepting applications to its Community Connect broadband grant program and will reopen a revamped broadband loan program, which offers financing to eligible rural carriers that invest in bringing high-speed broadband to unserved and under served rural areas.

Removing Regulatory Barriers and Improving Investment Incentives - the President is calling for the Federal Government to remove all unnecessary regulatory and policy barriers to broadband build-out and competition, and is establishing a new Broadband Opportunity Council of over a dozen government agencies with the singular goal of speeding up broadband deployment and promoting adoption for our citizens. The Council will also solicit public comment on unnecessary regulatory barriers and opportunities to promote greater coordination with the aim of addressing those within its scope.

Some industry reactions:

COMPTEL's Chip Pickering: "COMPTEL commends President Obama for proposing initiatives that are designed to bring affordable broadband services to more communities across the nation. Competition has been the driving force in spurring investment in new technologies and infrastructure, encouraging new companies to bring innovative services to market and driving costs down. Our members continue to be at the forefront of this competitive revolution, delivering broadband to small and mid-sized businesses, which had long been underserved by the incumbents. This renewed focus on removing regulatory barriers and improving investment incentives are more steps in the right direction to ensure that American consumers can enjoy faster broadband services and lower costs.” 

CTIA's Meredith Atwell Baker - "CTIA applauds President Obama's recognition that broadband drives economic growth and supports innovation. Today's remarks, however, failed to acknowledge that America's wireless consumers already benefit every day from the dynamic, competitive market that the President seeks, with more than 8 out of 10 Americans having access to at least four wireless broadband providers. By focusing on government-owned networks, the President missed an important opportunity to promote private wireless broadband investment and the potential for 4G, 5G and fixed wireless solutions to deliver more competitive choice and innovation to rural America.

The President's focus today on using taxpayer money to compete with commercial providers, which are pouring billions in private capital every year into U.S. broadband infrastructure and jobs, is the wrong path forward. The wireless industry has invested $100 billion in the last four years alone. In such a vigorously competitive market, government-owned networks would only serve to chill private sector investment, tilt the competitive playing field, and harm consumers."

Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) - “Ubiquitous broadband deployment empowers consumers, strengthens communities and provides economic opportunity for the innovative companies that drive our ICT sector. TIA has long supported this goal, and we applaud President Obama’s initiative. A critical step forward is to remove regulatory barriers that prevent or discourage private sector investment in new broadband facilities. At the same time, we encourage a collaboration with local governments, and additional public efforts can and should work to supplement private sector investments. TIA believes that state and local governments should be free to identify those broadband needs that are best met through some form of governmental action or partnership with the private sector.”