WASHINGTON D.C. —  Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to remove barriers to broadband by closing two dockets and opening two more, all focused on broadband infrastructure deployment.

The Commission voted on two items. First, an Order on Reconsideration will allow providers to fully recover their investment in deploying broadband to high-cost rural areas from the Connect America Fund. Second, a Report and Order will remove certain legacy price regulation on business data services (BDS) (wholesale broadband for businesses) in areas with sufficient competition, while maintaining vital regulations in areas lacking competition in order to protect small businesses and other customers.

The Commission also voted to open two new dockets on infrastructure deployment that will inform the work of the FCC’s new Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee. The wireless infrastructure NPRM will take comment on barriers to deployment of wireless broadband, especially 5G, which requires hugely larger numbers of small cell antennas. The wireline infrastructure item proposes multiple steps to remove bureaucratic obstacles to new broadband infrastructure at all levels of government and assist in the transition from legacy copper networks to fiber, while inquiring about further steps the FCC can take to ease deployment.

Barriers to broadband deployment exist at every level of government,” said TechFreedom President Berin Szoka. “Building next-gen networks requires access to poles, ducts, rights-of-way, and other government-owned assets, which means dealing with cumbersome local approval processes and paying often exorbitant fees. For the past eight years, the FCC lamented a lack of competition and deployment, but did little about the underlying problem of dealing with local governments. Wheeler and especially Commissioner Rosenworcel deserve credit for the 2014 wireless infrastructure order — one of few major items to earn bipartisan support — but the Wheeler FCC did not address fees at all or red tape for wireline deployment, and dragged its feet on the IP Transition. With today’s inquiries, Pai is finally following up on these and other deployment barriers identified by the 2010 National Broadband Plan.”

Removing price controls on business data services will encourage investment in the broadband used by businesses large and small across America, from shopping malls to office parks, and mom-and-pops,” continued Szóka. “Pai is returning to the approach started under Democrat Bill Kennard, President Clinton’s second FCC Chairman: encouraging deployment of competing networks instead of imposing price controls on wholesalers under the assumption that more deployment won’t happen anyway. The cost of wiring every building might seem prohibitive in some business districts, but 5G service will make new competition possible by bypassing the internal wiring problem with multi-gigabit wireless. Today’s vote will accelerate deployment of both 5G technology and more fiber.”

Pai has also begun fixing the FCC’s convoluted program for subsidizing broadband deployment,” concluded Szóka. “Wheeler’s reforms to the Connect America Fund had the unintended effect of leaving high-cost areas stranded without broadband access. Today’s bipartisan vote fixes that rule, ensuring that broadband carriers don’t get penalized for trying to deploy to the most remote, hard-to-connect parts of America.”


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