What is Broadband?
Broadband refers most commonly to a new generation of high-speed transmission services which allows users to access the Internet at significantly higher speeds than traditional modems. It has the potential technical capability to meet consumers’ broad communication, entertainment, information, and commercial needs.[1]

What is Broadband Universal Service?
Broadband universal service refers to the effort to ensure that all citizens are served by emerging broadband technologies. Broadband Universal Service is a policy initiative mandated by the 1996 Telecommunications Act and managed by the FCC to promote the expansion of telecommunications services to all citizens. Specifically, the goals of Universal Service are to:

  • promote the availability of quality services at just, reasonable, and affordable rates;
  • increase access to advanced telecommunications services throughout the nation; and
  • advance the availability of such services to all consumers, including those in low income, rural, insular, and high cost areas at rates that are reasonably comparable to those charged in urban areas.

In addition, the 1996 Act states that all providers of telecommunications services should contribute to the federal Universal Service Fund in some equitable and nondiscriminatory manner; there should be specific, predictable, and sufficient Federal and State mechanisms to preserve and advance universal service; all schools, classrooms, health care providers, and libraries should, generally, have access to advanced telecommunications services; and finally, that the Federal-State Joint Board and the FCC should determine those other principles that, consistent with the 1996 Act, are necessary to protect the public interest. [2]

Existing Law and Challenges
While local governments have been able to mandate cable video services be universally deployed, the recent cable modem order jeopardizes local government’s ability to mandate universal cable modem service. Additionally, local government lacks the authority to establish as a condition of rights-of-way use the universal deployment of broadband services.

TeleCommUnity Supports Broadband Deployment
The telecommunications industry has reported that it will not be economically viable to deploy broadband facilities to 10 to 15 percent of Americans. Many communities do not have adequate broadband deployment, do not have a choice of broadband service providers, or have difficulty getting broadband providers to serve residential customers in addition to business customers.

Local governments must have the right to require broadband operators to close – not widen – the Digital Divide as a condition for access to public rights-of-way. TV is more than entertainment. Telephone is more than a voice conversation. The convergence of digital transmission with fiber optic capabilities and powerful, small computers is transforming the way Americans work, play and live in our communities. No citizen should be left out.

TeleCommUnity's Recommendations
In order to encourage the deployment of broadband to the widest range of American citizens,TeleCommUnity urges Congress to:

  • Examine measures – including both funding and conditions for use of the rights-of-way – that would bring access to broadband services to underserved areas; and
  • Expand local authority to impose build-out requirements on broadband service providers.

For More Information

FCC's webpage on Broadband Universal Service

Federal State Joint Board on Universal Service
On February 27, 2004, the Joint Board provided its recommendations concerning the process for designation of eligible telecommunications carriers and the Commission's rules regarding high-cost universal service support. FCC Docket No. 96-45

The fund has been stressed in recent years as wireless carriers have qualified for USF support after being designated as competitive eligible telecommunications carriers (CETCs). To ensure that the USF remains solvent, the joint board suggested the fund be used to support only the "primary line" for each customer. Presuming the primary-line designation is given to the wireline service provided by the rural incumbent carrier, CETCs would be left without USF revenues that are vital to making their business models work in rural areas. Telephony Online, March 1, 2004

Recent Hearings

Senate Commerce Committee
Rural Wireless Thursday, May 22 2003
Universal Service Thursday, October 30 2003
Universal Service Wednesday, April 2 2003

Reports

National Broadband, Tax Credits Among Items on Tech Industry Wish List
In a report published April 23, 2004 the Electronic Industries Alliance says the United States needs to confront growing global competition by fostering and expanding innovation, and part of the agenda for doing so involves policies that expedite the deployment of broadband services. The United States must "assume a front-running role in achieving widespread broadband deployment in a reasonable period of time," according to EIA's new report, "The Technology Industry at an Innovation Crossroads," which it called a "policy playbook" for the high-tech economy. The Bush administration should develop a national broadband policy and implementation strategy, the report says. "The overriding objective of this public-private partnership should be to ensure that all Americans have access to high-speed Internet access technologies in the near future," it says. The report adds that services should be "affordable, highly advanced and secure," and that competitive market forces, not regulation, should be the principal means of achieving that goal. The report also recommends 10 percent tax credits for "current-generation" broadband investment in rural and underserved areas and a 20 percent credit for "next-generation" investment or an "equivalent tax expensive option." EIA also called for more funding for the National Institute of Standards & Technology and a strengthening and extension of the research and development tax credit. Report can be downloaded here


Notes

1. "What is Broadband?" The FCC's Broadband/High Speed Internet Access Page
2. "Universal Service" The FCC's Universal Service Home Page

 

Latest news on Broadband

How to Get Megabits at 10,000 Volts
For the past decade, electric utilities have been trying to draw attention to the fact that Internet-ready copper wiring exists in virtually every building in the US. Because electrical current is transmitted at low frequencies (10 to 490 kHz), data running at higher frequencies (1 to 30 MHz) can travel through the same wire. The promise: All you have to do is plug a $100 modem into your wall socket, connect it to your USB or Ethernet port, and you're online.
Wired Magazine, May 2004

Broadband users, watch your wallets
Commentary on Bush's call for universal broadband
CNET News.com, April 27, 2004

Kerry's Broadband Policy Plans Emerging
Like President Bush, Kerry is seeking to expand access to broadband Internet services as widely as possible, but appears likely to propose tapping public funds to help reach that goal
CNET News.com April 21, 2004

President Bush Calls for Universal Broadband
President George Bush has issued a call for "universal, affordable" broadband access to all U.S. consumers by 2007 and for no taxes on broadband.
Washington Post, Telephony Online, March 27-29, 2004

Broadband Access Via Power Lines Expanding in Northern Virginia City
By the end of the year, Manassas, VA, could become the first U.S. city to offer high-speed Internet access over power lines to all of its residents. Washington Times, April 5, 2004

Stealth DSL Price Increases Loom
CNET News.com, April 6, 2004

West Virginia Team to Seek Ways to Expand Rural Broadband Service
Associated Press, April 8, 2004

Ex-FCC Chief Hundt Decries Lack Of National Policy
An FCC chairman during the Clinton administration says a national policy on high-speed Internet service would help boost employment in the United States. "If we adopted a coherent broadband policy ... [we could] achieve significant advances in productivity gains," Reed Hundt said. Broadband will do "more to achieve full employment than any other policy," he said.
Technology Daily, March 12, 2004

Chicago Broadband Plan Awaits Liftoff
A report by the nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council says Chicago should move forward with its CivicNet broadband initiative, a plan launched in 1999 to bring affordable high-speed Internet to underserved neighborhoods. CivicNet so far has failed to get off the ground, and some have said it may be dead in the water.
Chicago Tribune, March 15, 2004


Survey Says Broadband Prices Still Too High
A recent survey found that prices is still an issue for potential broadband customers. According to its findings, 71 percent of respondents said they would upgrade to broadband if it was less expensive.
MediaPost Communications, March 24, 2004

Governors Want Improvements in USF
"We urge Congress to examine the current Universal Service Fund (USF) distribution formula for non-rural carriers, which serve both rural and non-rural areas," Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns and Colorado Gov. Bill Owens wrote to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). Despite recent minor changes in the program by the FCC, "many sparsely populated rural states will receive no support" from the program, the governors said. The group criticized the FCC for excluding 40 states from USF money. Technology Daily, March 17, 2004