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We can incent wireline broadband access without telecommunications policy

Susan Crawford, professor of law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, wrote a piece for The New York Times in December about the benefits of wireline broadband access versus wireless in the effort to close the digital divide. Professor Crawford does a good job highlighting the benefits of wireline access versus the limited capacity of wireless broadband access.

Professor Crawford had me up to where she recommended government intervention in the broadband access market. I agree wholeheartedly that, depending on capacity demands and needs, a wireline connection is more conducive to productivity than a wireless connection.

Do we really need government intervention to incentivize consumers to become producers? Probably. We’ve used tax exemptions to get consumers to buy non-income producing assets such as houses and cars. We provide tax credits to companies for research and development. A fiscal policy approach would be preferable to a FCC promoted and enforced telecommunications policy.

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GOP candidates missed an opportunity to talk broadband

Posted August 13th, 2011 in Broadband, Hispanics, Republicans and tagged , , by Alton Drew

The GOP showdown in Ames, Iowa was a missed opportunity for the GOP to show that they are indeed a 21st century party. Nary a one, including the two former high-powered corporate CEOs, Herman Cain and Willard “Mitt” Romney, spoke about broadband as a driver of economic opportunity.

The candidates could have done with IIA strategic counselor Henry M. Rivera’s insights into broadband. As reported on IIA’s blog, The Podium. Mr. Rivera dropped some knowledge on the attendees of the 2011 Educational Conference of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement regarding how important broadband is to the economic development of the Latino community. Here is part of Mr. Rivera’s take on why broadband is an economic driver:

“First, broadband promotes economic growth and jobs. High speed connections accelerate business development by providing new opportunities for innovation, expansion and e-commerce. A 2010 Communication Workers of America study shows that every additional $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure creates 250,000 jobs — 100,000 direct and indirect jobs from telecom and IT equipment spending plus another 150,000 in “network effects” spurring new online applications and services; and, with every percentage point increase in broadband penetration, employment expands by nearly 300,000 jobs. Broadband networks attract investment to areas that would not otherwise attract it, such as rural and inner-city areas, thus promoting the economic development of those areas. This is critical, especially in today’s economy.”

These are solid arguments for economic development and broadband. Too bad the GOP couldn’t make the connection.

Net neutrality order gives minorities more lip service

Posted December 28th, 2010 in African Americans, Broadband, FCC, Government Regulation, Internet, net neutrality and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Here is a line from the Federal Communications Commission’s recently released net neutrality report and order.

“We expect that open Internet protections will help close the digital divide by maintaining relatively low barriers to entry for underrepresented groups and allowing for the development of diverse content, applications, and services.”

Interesting. The FCC also said in this order that the rules are little different from the net neutrality principles currently in place. If that is the case, that these principles now codified in proposed rules are just a tad over the status quo, why should we believe that all of a sudden net neutrality is supposed to help close the digital divide? The divide has been gaping with these principles in place, meaning that they have not and probably will not contribute to greater broadband adoption by minority groups.

I’m not surprised by the FCC’s equivocal verbiage. After all, this is the same agency that has done next to nothing when it comes to monitoring the lack of employment opportunities in media for minorities and the dearth in access to capital by underrepresented groups.

Danny Bakewell, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, recently made some comments on The Huffington Post.  I agree with Mr. Bakewell’s conclusions that the Internet is a job creator; that universal deployment is necessary for filling the digital divide; and that private sector investment over the past decade has been one of the driving factors behind placing the Internet in reach of over sixty-percent of American households.

While I believe that the Federal Communications Commission must derive expressed authority from Congress before attempting to reclassify broadband, I prefer that Congress not intervene at all. Any intervention on the part of Congress would amount to additional and unnecessary regulations. Added regulatory burdens will only slow down investment and make the FCC’s national broadband plan ineffective.

If Congress wants to lay its imprimatur on broadband deployment over the next ten years, then Congress should issue a clear statement expressing its desire that broadband regulation should be incidental and ancillary. Light touch regulation ensures that the powers of consumer choice and producer innovation combine for continued, robust growth in the broadband market.