Federal Communications Commission

The FCC should carefully examine “network neutrality” complaints.

No formal complaints of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet (“network neutrality”) rules have been lodged, although a number of firms complain about unfair conduct. In the event that an actual Open Internet complaint is made to the FCC, it should be carefully examined by an expert panel such as the Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group before the FCC takes action.

The FCC should let existing avenues of self-regulation and co-regulation be pursued instead of regulating software on mobile devices to allow for continued innovation and growth in this industry.

Rather than duplicate existing efforts, the FCC should allow existing avenues of self-regulation and co-regulation to be pursued. Given the rapid rate of change in this industry, where possible, the FCC should apply a light touch and rely on flexible industry codes of conduct, rather than more restrictive government regulations, to govern how information is used. The FCC should not extend its authority to regulate the software that is installed on mobile devices. The current uses of CPNI by carriers are appropriate and neither the FCC nor consumers advocacy group have identified any specific harms to consumers. While privacy is an important issue to consider, the potential negative impact of additional regulation on the mobile Internet, mobile devices, and mobile applications should be considered as well. The FCC should instead use its expertise to help identify issues that need attention and actively participate in existing multistakeholder efforts to improve consumer privacy.

The FCC should expand the scope of its broadband performance study to wireless networks.

The current study, "Measuring Broadband America," is wireline only, but fixed wireless broadband and mobile broadband should also be measured.

The FCC should publish broadband performance data on a six month basis.

The data provided the FCC's "Measuring Broadband America" report will become more useful as it is taken again and again so that trend lines can be constructed; the FCC should sample performance every six months.

The FCC should expand Lifeline services beyond basic telephone service to broadband service.

Lifeline is a federally mandated government program that offers low-income households a discount on their monthly local telephone bill for basic telephone service. In a world where many households have the ability to use broadband for voice services (VOIP), it is anachronistic for this program not to allow consumers to use the subsidy for either traditional voice service (wired or wireless) or broadband. Congress and the FCC should reform the program by allowing Lifeline recipients to use the support for whatever service they choose: plain old telephone service (POTS), mobile telephony, or broadband.

The FCC should use E-rate funds to help defray the costs of low-income families owning a computer.

Without own ing a computer or similar device there is no reason to subscribe to broadband. One proposal that could sig nificantly expand computer ownership is to allow the FCC’s “E-rate” funds to be used to subsidize computer purchases by low-income families with students enrolled at E-rate eligible schools. Spurring broadband deployment and computer adoption among families with children can play a key cata lytic role in helping not only other family mem bers to become computer and Internet literate, but also extended family and neighbors. As such, policymakers should invest funds to help low-in come families with children purchase a com puter and get subsidized broadband service for one year. If such a program provided a subsidy (up to $300) equal to two-thirds of the cost of purchasing a PC, it would cost $450 million per year to provide PCs to 1.5 million low income households.

The FCC should not prohibit Internet service providers from implementing innovative pricing plans.

Compared to the wireline and wireless phone industries, there is a relative paucity of different pricing plans in the broadband industry. Many Internet service providers have discounts for service that is bundled with other services (e.g., TV and/or phone). And some charge less for service with lower speeds. But no company appears to sell low-cost plans based on limited use. Yet, for many consumers, particularly lower income consumers, having access to a plan that is priced on the basis of limited bit use might be quite attractive. Likewise, some consumers might be more willing to adopt broadband if a computer was included for free (just as consumers today subscribe to cell phone plans and get a free phone). Yet Internet and cell phone providers have been criticized in the past for experimenting with pricing plans. For example, cellular providers have been criticized for providing long-term contracts. If providers believe they are able to offer a better pricing option they should be free to do so without worrying they will be subject to regulatory uncertainty.

The FCC needs to reform the Universal Service Fund program to extend support for broadband in high-cost areas.

The federal USF program does not provide explicit support for broadband. The USF Board recommended using a reverse auction mechanism to allocate its funds. Companies would compete to win funding to provide broadband services in rural areas, with awards going to the lowest bidder. The funding would consist of a one-time subsidy and the company would operate on limited contract (perhaps 5 or 10 years) and be required to meet minimum standards of performance. The one-time auctions would cover the higher capital costs and higher capitalized operating costs of service in rural areas. These auctions should be open to any provider using any technology.
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