Following up on a presidential directive, the Broadband Opportunity Council has released its report on recommendations for expanding broadband deployment and adoption, specifically by addressing regulatory barriers and encouraging investment and training.
The President called for the creation of the council and the recommendations, saying access to high-speed was a necessity, not a luxury, a point the FCC has taken to heart under FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
The broadband report included four broad recommendations: modernize federal programs to expand support for investment, give communities he tools to expand broadband investment, expand access to federal assets, and improve data collection and analysis.
The council is co-chaired by the heads of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, both of which oversaw billions in stimulus funds for broadband buildouts.
Among the actions the agencies will take, said the council, are to 1) "Create an online inventory of data on federal assets; 2) "streamline the applications for programs and broadband permitting processes to support broadband deployment and foster competition"; and 3) "create a portal for information on Federal broadband funding and loan programs to help communities easily identify resources as they seek to expand access to broadband."
The FCC, as an independent agency, is not subject to the President's executive order, which asked for recommendations that could be achieved through executive actions. But the FCC on a parallel track is migrating its Universal Service Fund to broadband, has taken steps to make it easier to put up cell towers, In a White House blog on the report, Jeffrey Zientz, assistant to the President for Economic Policy, said it would take more than government policy to close the broadband gap.
"[to bring faster, lower price broadband into more homes will take more than the Federal government," he said. "That’s why the Administration is calling on the private sector, local, state and Tribal governments, community organizations and foundations to work with us to tackle some of the big challenges, like opening up critical data sources around the country and helping communities become ‘broadband ready’ to encourage more investment."
CTIA: The Wireless Association commented on the report: “We appreciate the White House’s focus on speeding broadband deployment and, in particular, on the importance of timely access to federal buildings and lands for deploying wireless broadband facilities," the trade group said. "Streamlining and clarifying federal agency processes and procedures can speed further broadband investment and innovation that will ultimately benefit consumers through new and improved services. We look forward to working with federal agencies to quickly implement the infrastructure goals identified in this report.”
“We applaud the White House for recognizing the importance of genuine competition in the broadband marketplace as a top priority in the Broadband Opportunity Council Report released earlier today," said Competify, a group whose members include Common Cause, Sprint, Public Knowledge and Comptel. "Not only does the report focus on the lack of competition in the high-speed broadband access market, the White House also recommends a clear path forward to ensure that consumers, businesses and institutions do not continue to needlessly suffer from a broadband economy plagued by chronic broadband access control. This move coupled with last week’s FCC announcement regarding the data collected on this disease, are the clearest signals yet that relief is on the horizon.”
Connected Nation, which is pushing for high-speed broadband buildouts with money from, among others, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, praised the report.
“Connected Nation applauds the work of the Broadband Opportunity Council, and related agencies of the federal government, in the creation and completion of these recommendations to spur broadband access," the group said. "As with the 2008 passage of the Broadband Data Improvement Act and the 2010 release of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, the report released is the latest step in an ongoing evolution of the role of governments and government policies to assist broadband access, adoption, and use."
The praise continued from WiFi Forward, which praised the council for "underscoring the importance of Wi-Fi, powered by unlicensed spectrum, to our communities. Wi-Fi serves as a crucial on-ramp to the Internet, connecting citizens who have the fewest options for getting online. That connectivity is essential in providing access to job and educational opportunities, improving commerce, supporting economic development, and providing a sandbox for wireless innovation."