Levin Outlines Broadband Deployment Formula

Approach posits deployment to 97% of unserved homes in ten years for $10 billion
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Former FCC
broadband czar Blair Levin says he has a formula for deploying broadband
to 97% of the country in ten years for $10 billion.

The government
has just finished allocating almost $7 billion in stimulus funds to
promote deployment to unserved and underserved areas, but Levin says
that infusion "will not be sufficient to ensure
that all people in the United States have access to and can enjoy the
benefits of universal digital citizenship."

Levin, who
exited the FCC last spring, outlines his approach in a new paper for The
Aspen Institute, where he is a fellow. The paper is being presented as
part of the Aspen Institute Communications
and Society Program, Universal Broadband: Targeting Investments to
Deliver Broadband Services to All Americans.

Levin points
out that the FCC has concluded that there are about 7 million housing
units (about 5% of the total) without access to the 4 Mbps downstream/4
Mbps upstream Levin says should be the threshold
for government support of broadband. The FCC pegs the cost to reach all
those homes with wired broadband at $32.4 billion, with a revenue
projection of only $8.9 billion, leaving a $23.5 billion gap.

But he says
that about just 250,000 homes (or .2%) account for $13.4 billion, which
he would serve with satellite broadband because it is too expensive to
wire them, leaving the government with $10
billion needed to reach all the rest.

Levin, whose
National Broadband Plan included migrating Universal Service Funds to
broadband support, says that $10 billion could come from repurposing
existing USF funds. He recommends reducing or
freezing funds to existing carriers, funding only single carrier
and and only where is no business case for deployment absent a subsidy.

Levin says
the FCC should create a broadband mobility fund. The FCC has actually
slated a vote for a rulemaking proposal to create such a fund at its
next public meeting. Not a big surprise since it
was one of the USF changes proposed by Levin's National Broadband Plan.

Levin says
another key is adoption by low-income citizens, which includes not only
cost but factors or relevance and digital literacy.

A number of
his suggestions mirror FCC moves already underway, including
establishing low, uniform pole attachment rates and reforms for
right-of-way dispute resolution.

Levin's
proposals were by way of suggesting how to implement a Knight Commission
recommendation that all Americans need access to high-speed broadband
and its diverse sources of information.  According
to Knight, that includes mobile access and speeds capable of delivering
high-definition video.

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