FCC: Openness, Video Access, Important To Rural Broadband

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Acting Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Copps has released the FCC's rural broadband report, telling Congress that adopting a fifth principle of network nondiscrimination should be part of a rural broadband plan, and that lack of access to video programming could impact rural rollouts.

The other four are what he called "the basic rights of Internet end-users to access lawful content, run applications and services, connect devices to the network, and enjoy the benefits of competition."

The report was due to Congress last week in compliance with a directive in the 2008 Farm Bill.

Copps, whose name was on the report, which was written in the first person, pointed out that he had long pushed for the fifth principle, but said it was particularly important to rural broadband because "a citizen may have only one option for broadbnd access."

Copps made it clear he thought the rural plan must ensure network openness. He said ubiquitous broadband would not happen "if consumers are constrained by careful bundling, packaging and discriminatory practices that Whittle away the end-to-end structure of the public Internet."

Copps also tied the rural strategy to another key concern of his, access to video programming. He called program access an important element in the decision to buy broadband, concluding that "video programming could become an issue that has an impact on the potential competitiveness of the service offerings of rural broadband providers and thus on rural broadband deployment."

Copps said the rural report would be a "building block" in the FCC's larger effort to draft a national broadband rollout plan, which it must do by next February at Congress's direction. Copps said that plan will provide "in greater detail and on a vastly more complete record...the steps the nation must take to achieve its broadband goals."

The bulk of the report dealt with coordinating the efforts of various government agencies, collecting better data and broadband mapping, and other broad brush strokes.

It touched on a host of issues including pole-attachment rates and Universal Service reforms, but essentially logged them as factors in the equation. For example, on attachments, Copps said, "Timely and reasonably priced access to

poles and rights of way is critical to the buildout of broadband infrastructure in rural areas," and he renewed his call for universal service reform.

He also said that its effect on rural broadband should be a "critical factor" in evaluating any reform of intercarrier compensation .

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