Last week was full of broadband action…and it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for more to come as the FCC winds up for its next Universal Service Fund program modernization proceeding and Congress considers a new option for stymying network neutrality rules.
Here’s a quick rundown of recent activity and coming attractions:
1) Network neutrality rules take effect. You may not have noticed the government taking over your Internet, as asserted by many net neutrality foes, but the FCC’s Open Internet rules officially took hold Friday, June 12. While the first court challenge calling for an immediate stay of the rules was decided in the FCC’s favor, it will likely be years before we know the final fate of the rules. Unless, of course, Congress finds a way to defund FCC implementation of the rules. The ALA and Association for Research Libraries signed on to a joint letter opposing this move in advance of a House Appropriation’s hearing on June 17.
In the meantime, the FCC is moving ahead, yesterday naming Parul P. Desai to serve as the Open Internet ombudsperson, the public’s primary point of contact within the agency for formal and informal questions and complaints related to the Open Internet rules. Desai comes to the FCC Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau from the Consumers Union, where she served as policy counsel for media, telecommunications and technology policy.
2) FCC seeks to expand low-income telephone subsidy to broadband. As with the E-rate, the FCC has signaled (here and here, for instance) it will modernize its Lifeline program for 21st Century communications. The item is on the agenda for the FCC’s meeting Thursday, June 18. ALA joined dozens of other public interest and consumer advocates in laying out principles (pdf) for the Lifeline proceeding, including universality, excellence, consumer choice, innovation and transparency. ALA also previously met with FCC staff to discuss the role of libraries in supporting home broadband adoption and closing the “homework gap” for families with school-age children that lack home broadband access. Look for a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to be approved on Thursday that will ask a series of questions related to how the Commission can best address the affordability barrier for low-income Americans. As new analysis from the Pew Research Center shows, only about 60% of families with incomes at or below $25,000 have high-speed connections at home.
3) Broadband Opportunity Council shares responses to its Request for Comments. The ALA also submitted comments related to how the federal government can promote broadband deployment, adoption and competition. In alignment with our Policy Revolution! initiative, we focus first on how federal agencies may leverage our nation’s libraries in support of national purposes. America’s libraries—well over 100,000 strong—are a critical national infrastructure with a long history of connecting people with each other and with diverse physical and increasingly digital resources. Why not leverage a nationwide trusted infrastructure already in place for which new services often may be implemented for only modest incremental costs? In addition, we recommend the council:
- Develop comprehensive solutions to the three “A’s” of broadband adoption challenges—access, affordability, and ability;
- Reduce or eliminate any barriers to competitive broadband providers. Competition is vital to creating affordable, future-proof broadband opportunity;
- Develop specific strategies to address the needs of rural and tribal communities;
- Enable smart transitions for e-government services; and
- Improve relevant data collection and sharing.
President Obama established the Broadband Opportunity Council in March to address regulatory barriers and encourage investment and training. IMLS is one of the federal agencies represented on the Council, which is charged with providing recommendations of actions that each of their agencies could take to identify and address regulatory barriers, incentivize investment, promote best practices, align funding decisions, and otherwise support wired broadband deployment and adoption.