Policy

Free Press Piles On With Broadband Criticisms

7/22/2009 8:55 AM Eastern

Latching on to the criticisms of FCC broadband czar Blair Levin, Free Press took aim at what it agreed were comments that lacked "seriousness of purpose," and were characterized by get-mine-first proposals and intellectual sloppiness.

Levin had applied those labels to the first round of comments on the FCC's national broadband plan in a speech July 20 In Washington and Free Press incorporated them into its own assessment of those comments, though it applied them by association to commenters from the incumbent phone and cable companies.

As far as the sloppy thinking went, Levin said it characterized some of the filings on all sides.

In its reply comment filing, which was due to the FCC July 21, Free Press said it largely agreed with Levin's advice to commenters to offer "clear ideas that solve a problem, deliver a return, can gain a consensus, and will be relatively easy to accomplish."

But it took issue with the "consensus" part.

"The FCC role in this proceeding, and their role generally is to make tough decisions that inevitably will cause discomfort among some industry sectors, but are overall a net positive for the public," said the group. "The record in this proceeding, and in all other related proceedings conducted over the past dozen years, makes it abundantly clear that compromise is not the same thing as good public policy. Some ideas are inherently better for the public interest than others. Watering down good policy with bad policy is unlikely to lead to desired outcomes," Free Press said.

Fress Press argued that its inherently better ideas include developing a set of competition analyses; adding a fifth, nondiscrimination principle to the FCC's Internet policy statement; finding more spectrum for unlicensed use; and reimposing access requirements on broadband Internet by reclassifying it as an information service "with a telecommunications service component."

The network neutrality debate was sparked by the FCC's decision, and the Supreme Court's agreement, that phone networks' and later other providers of Internet were supplying an information service not subject to the same mandatory access provisions as common-carrier telecommunications services like phone service.

Those are essentially all the things the incumbents argue could dissuade investment and jeopardize the broadband rollout.

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