The FCC's National Broadband Plan

In this Public Interest Comment, Senior Research Fellow Jerry Ellig and Mercatus Graduate Fellow Christina Forsberg make recommendations to the Federal Communications Commission for the national

The Proceeding

The Recovery Act requires the Federal Communications Commission to produce a national broadband plan. The plan must outline how the United States will seek to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband, in order to advance a list of specified public policy objectives. In the current Notice of Inquiry, the FCC seeks comment on quantifiable outcome measures and alternative strategies that would help accomplish the policy objectives enumerated in the section of the Recovery Act that requires the FCC to produce a national broadband plan.

Our Recommendations

The following steps would enable the commission to craft a plan that promotes consumer welfare and identifies the most efficient and effective ways to accomplish broadband policy goals:

  • Define "broadband" as the minimal high-speed service that has garnered substantial subscribership. This definition allows actual consumer choices to define broadband, instead of substituting government decision makers' judgment about what counts as broadband for consumers' actual decisions about what counts as broadband.
  • Measure broadband access by evaluating whether broadband service is available from wireline, fixed wireless, mobile wireless, or satellite providers in each census tract.
  • Measure "affordable" broadband prices by reference to prices paid by middle-class consumers in competitive urban and suburban markets.
  • Measure broadband subscribership using the census-tract data that broadband providers are now required to provide.
  • Establish baselines that recognize broadband availability and subscribership will likely continue to increase even in the absence of new federal policies to encourage broadband.
  • Evaluate benefits and costs of alternative policies.
  • Consider alternatives to infrastructure or subscribership subsidies.
  • Encourage facilities-based competition.
  • Arrange for independent retrospective analysis of outcomes and costs.

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