Speak Your Piece: The Battle for Broadband

[imgbelt img=earlyphone.jpg]The best result for rural communities is to have locally-owned and operated broadband networks. The telephone and cable duopoly has a different vision of the future.


The only legal mechanisms by which rural Americans can express their preference for broadband dependency or self-reliance are Congress, the courts, and – most directly – the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC’s June 17 Notice of Inquiry asks for public comment on its proposal to regulate broadband under the rules originally designed to govern traditional phone networks. 

This may be rural America’s only opportunity to tell the FCC that we prefer self-reliance to dependency, that underserved communities are capable of building and operating their own broadband networks, and that we need a strong FCC to stand up to Wall Street on behalf of Main Street if broadband self-reliance is in our future.

The deadline for public comment on the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry is July 15. The deadline for replies to these comments is Aug. 15.

Everyone should comment. (You can make a comment here.) But before you write, consider a little history. 

Eight years ago on March 14, 2002, the five-member Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to surrender voluntarily its authority over broadband Internet access via a cable modem. The vote split along party lines: Republicans led by FCC Chairman Michael Powell voting for, the two Democrats voting against.

The FCC press release that day predicted that the unusual and controversial move “will promote broadband deployment, which should result in better quality, lower prices and more choices for consumers.”

The vote reclassified cable broadband from a “telecommunication” to an “information” service, thus exempting cable broadband access from “common carrier” obligations that had governed the nation’s telecommunications since the days of the telegraph. 

One of those obligations was allowing independent Internet service providers (ISPs) to re-sell cable broadband access.  A decade earlier, common-carrier rules helped the Internet move from government and academic circles into mainstream American life by creating a market for independent ISPs to lease and resell dial-up access over the nation’s telephone networks.