Free Press has given the Federal Communications Commission a lot to think about as the agency considers a new national broadband rollout strategy.
In a report with the ambitious/ominous title of "Dismantling Digital Deregulation: Toward a National Broadband Strategy," the open Internet advocate called for no less than a review of every FCC decision for the last decade-plus and its repeal if it did not promote broadband competition and openness.
Free Press said that should include codifying the FCC's access principles into network neutrality rules, and reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service, which would allow for open access conditions to be imposed.
Under then FCC chairman Kevin Martin, cable-modem service was classified as an information services not subject to open-access conditions, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in the Brand X decision. The FCC then classified DSL and broadband over power lines broadband as information services as well.
Free Press's broadband remake would also include a data-driven standard of market power and abuse by broadband providers, opening more of the "public airwaves" for use by unlicensed devices like laptops, and transitioning the universal service fund from supporting phone service to broadband.
"America's broadband failures are the result of policy failures and the blame falls squarely on the FCC's shoulders," said Free Press research director S. Derek Turner, who wrote the report. "The FCC predicted a future of broadband competition, and then regulated as if it were already here. While promising consumer benefits, it tore down consumer protections. Digital deregulation reduced the broadband revolution to broadband mediocrity."
The FCC is currently seeking input on the national broadband rollout plan in must present to Congress by February of next year as part of the economic stimulus plan's broadband deployment initiative.
Separately, the FCC is counseling the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and the Ag Department on how to spend over $7 billion in stimulus money to reach unserved and underserved, including what access and interconnection conditions should be put on the grants and loans.