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Federal Broadband Report proves wisdom of bi-partisan law to promote competition/reduce regulation

Many have missed the high significance of the NTIA Commerce Department report: "Networked Nation: Broadband in America."

  • In particular, press reports, which zeroed in on the histrionics of broadband critics, totally "missed the proverbial forest for the trees" on this one.
  • The fact is that this report is a very big deal for national broadband policy.    

First, this official United States Government report represents the consensus policy thinking and sign-off of all the many parts of the United States Government involved in setting United States broadband policy, including but not limited to: NTIA, FCC, FTC, USTR, CEA, OMB, OSTP, and the Federal Departments of Commerce, Treasury, State, Justice, and Agriculture. 

Second, this is the first and only official and comprehensive U.S. Executive Branch assessment of U.S. broadband strategy/policy and of U.S. progress in deploying broadband. Broadband critics can no longer say there is no official or clear U.S. Government broadband policy, because here it is:

  •  "A Broadband Strategy for the Twenty-First Century Building on the pro-competitive, deregulatory policies Congress articulated in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Administration... has executed a combination of initiatives to develop and rapidly deploy new technologies, eliminate regulatory underbrush, and remove economic disincentives for investment in this critical area."
  • "...the Administration has consistently and strenuously advocated for technology neutrality in order to take the government out of decisions more appropriately left to the marketplace."

  • "...The Administration’s strategy to advance broadband infrastructure and services in the United States rests on a simple tenet: A competitive environment – in which the ingenuity of technologists, engineers, and businessmen can fully express itself – provides the most effective and reliable tool to identify the new technologies, products and services that consumers need and want; and to develop and deploy the most cost-effective technical and commercial solutions to fill those needs. This precept is not new: it is the enduring legacy of a strong, bi-partisan consensus forged over a decade ago."

  • "The evidence is clear: The procompetition telecommunications policies underpinning the Administration’s broadband strategy has stabilized the market for planning and investment, provided needed spectrum resources to expand existing services and support new innovations, and spurred the development and deployment of technologies and infrastructure necessary to deliver them. These policies have delivered outstanding results and hold great promise for the future."

Third, while broadband critics may have made assertions that the U.S. Government did not have an official national broadband strategy, those assertions are now either untrue or moot, because the official U.S. Government "National Broadband Strategy" is in this January 2008 report for anyone to see.

Fourth, the burden for broadband critics advocating a more Government interventionist broadband industrial policy now is dramatically higher. Critics advocating a reversal of competition policy in favor of more regulation must overcome a formidable phalanx of obstacles in order to change official U.S. broadband policy to their position.

  • To start, they need to categorically and persuasively disprove this official United States Government decade-long record with better, different, and more conclusive data and information.
  • Next they need to prove to all the relevant parts of the U.S. Government that Government regulation by them, not competiton and market forces, is a better broadband policy than the current one endorsed and proven in this report. 
  • Assuming they can pull off that trick, these broadband policy critics must finally convince Congress to pass a new law and get a future President to sign it that would:
    • Reverse the successful bipartisan 1996 Telecom Act purpose to: "promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American...consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies."; and
    • Reverse the successful bipartisan Internet policy of the Congress: " preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet...unfettered by Federal or State regulation..."        

  • Finally, two leading critics of U.S. Government broadband policy (whom I respect, but must disagree with: 

    • John Windhausen's ambitious Educause white paper: "A Blueprint for Big Broadband, which would cost American taxpayers ~$67 billion in new subsidies and mandate net neutrality as the price for accepting the subsidies; and
    • Robert Atkinson's ITIF article: "Framing a national broadband policy" which incorrectly assumed as its premise that the United States Government did not have a national broadband policy.)  

    ...have to go back to the drawing board, and try and make the case why their approaches are better than the current National Broadband Strategy and why their approaches won't have harmful unintended consequences.

    • If there is a better national broadband policy than the current bi-partisan, free-market consensus policy we currently have, don't just assert it -- prove it.