This week’s report and order by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission that imposes a universal service requirement on Internet infrastructure providers may do little to over the next decade to ensure all premises have access to landline Internet connections.
As they did soon after the Communications Act was amended in 1996 requiring telephone companies to share their network infrastructures with competitive providers, the large telephone companies -- joined by cable companies – could challenge the rule in the courts and drag their feet implementing it.
They might also argue that they cannot afford to provide universal service within their service territories because there are insufficient subsidies given this week’s draft order defers enforcement of Section 254(d) of the Communications Act requiring telecommunications carriers to fund universal service.
With a generation of progress toward connecting all American premises with fiber already squandered, the associated delays could buy the big incumbent telephone and cable companies another 10 years or more of business as usual, allowing them to continue to cherry pick communities, neighborhoods and roads and streets they prefer to serve and redline those they reject.
That would leave Levin's Law of Internet Infrastructure Inertia* intact and the resulting entrenched disparate access to landline Internet service that leaves about one in five U.S. homes and small businesses unable to order service.
*Blair Levin, a former U.S Federal Communications Commission official and lead author of the FCC’s 2010 National Broadband Plan observed in 2012 that the major landline ISPs had no plans to improve and build out their infrastructures. “For most Americans, five years from now, the best network available to them will be the same network they have today," Levin stated.