AT&T, Verizon offer national broadband policy suggestions

JUNE 9, 2009 By Stephen Hardy -- Not surprisingly, both carriers highlighted promoting investment and service take-up as important elements.

JUNE 9, 2009 By Stephen Hardy -- AT&T (search Lightwave for AT&T) and Verizon (search Lightwave for Verizon) have filed proposals with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that describe what they'd like to see in a national broadband plan. Not surprisingly, both carriers highlighted promoting investment and service take-up as important elements.

In press statements that announced their filings, both carriers emphasized the amount of investment that already has been made in broadband networks and their desire that the government create an environment in which such investments will continue.

The FCC plan should ensure "all participants in the Internet ecosystem have the incentive to continue the massive investments required to create more bandwidth, compelling content, and applications that will make everyone in the United States want to be connected," said AT&T Senior Vice-President of Federal Regulatory Robert Quinn in the carrier's filing announcement.

The announcement continues, "The private sector has invested well over 100 billion dollars to build broadband networks from coast to coast over a variety of different fiber, copper, cable, wireless, satellite, and other platforms, and still billions more to create the broadband-enabled services, applications, and content to fill those networks."

Verizon played a similar tune in its announcement. After highlighting that a "lively and open ecosystem of innovation and investment has helped to make broadband an integral part of the lives of millions of Americans," Verizon says it told the FCC in its filing that "[p]olicymakers should ensure that any new policies maintain the healthy dynamics of the broadband marketplace that are currently creating and preserving jobs and leading to additional choices for consumers."

But sparking continued investment won't do much good if potential users don't subscribe to broadband services, both carriers noted. And they urged the FCC to tackle this issue as well. "While setting a goal of achieving universal access should be part of a comprehensive national broadband strategy, an inclusive approach must emphasize the critical importance of increasing broadband adoption," AT&T's Quinn said.

Verizon also noted that broadband adoption could be healthier, stating that approximately 40% of Americans with access to broadband services don't subscribe to them. Verizon cited studies that suggest reasons include a lack of computers and computer literacy, as well as what the carrier described as "the failure to appreciate the potential relevance of broadband to consumers' lives."

In setting a goal for "100 percent broadband" by 2014, AT&T stressed that the FCC should emphasize that the Internet be universal, open, and safe, and service should be offered in a way that respects privacy. The carrier offered eight elements that the FCC should consider to enable the 100% broadband goal:


  • embrace the diversity of broadband
  • engage all broadband stakeholders
  • promote broadband innovation, investment, and deployment and jobs
  • provide targeted government support for broadband deployment where needed
  • remove impediments to broadband adoption
  • encourage maximum utilization
  • enhance cybersecurity and online safety.

Verizon, meanwhile, had 10 elements of its own that it said the FCC should include in its recommendations to Congress:

  • a focused effort to encourage broadband demand
  • a consumer-choice framework
  • encouraging continued innovation to improve cybersecurity for consumers and the nation
  • pursuing a consumer-focused approach to privacy
  • facilitating wireless broadband
  • pursuing a pro-growth regulatory approach
  • reforming the Universal Service Fund to encourage broadband
  • encouraging broadband by encouraging IP-based services
  • effective implementation of stimulus programs
  • encouraging broadband adoption and deployment through tax reform.

"By following this consumer-focused, pro-growth, and pro-innovation framework and taking these steps to encourage broadband deployment and adoption, policymakers would encourage broadband deployment and adoption, and would empower consumers with an increasing array of choices," Verizon said it told the FCC.

The FCC began accepting recommendations on the national broadband plan June 8; the plan is due in February 2010.

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