Monday, January 04, 2016

At start of new year, U.S. faces worst of all worlds on federal telecom modernization policy

As 2016 dawns, the United States faces the worst of all worlds when it comes to federal policy on telecommunications infrastructure modernization to ensure all American homes and small businesses have access to landline Internet connections.

In early 2015, the nation adopted policy classifying Internet service as a common carrier telecommunications service. Under the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order, Internet service is subject to the Communication Act’s universal service requirement, mandating service be provided upon request and barring neighborhood redlining by Internet service providers. Nevertheless, a year later, millions of U.S. premises that attempt to order service will -- as they have for more than a decade -- continue be turned away by ISPs because the FCC is not enforcing these provisions.

Absent regulatory action ensuring compliance with these requirements and frustrated by technologically outmoded, spotty and overpriced Internet telecommunications service, state and local governments are naturally concerned over the adverse economic impacts. Consequently, they’re looking to build their own modern infrastructure. But given the billions of dollars needed to build it, they’ll need substantial financial backing from the federal government. Since none exists or appears to be forthcoming, pressure for strong policy action at the federal level will grow this year.

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