Procedural Choice May Affect Achievement of Goals
WASHINGTON D.C. - Today, the FCC posted an executive summary of its long-awaited National Broadband Plan, with the full Plan itself to be made available tomorrow. Among other things, the Plan seeks to provide guidance to policymakers, the broadband industry and the public in order to increase the availability of broadband services across America. The following statement may be attributed to Barbara Esbin, Senior Fellow & Director of the Center for Communications and Competition Policy at The Progress & Freedom Foundation:
"Last year, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop a national plan to ensure that every American has 'access to broadband capability,' and report that Plan to Congress. Instead, what we are expecting to receive tomorrow is a Plan developed and written by a team chosen by the FCC's Chairman that will not be adopted by vote of the full Commission. The five Commissioners will vote instead on a 'Broadband Mission Statement' that contains 'goals for U.S. broadband policy.' In other words, the full FCC will adopt only a statement of broadband policy goals on March 16th. There is a danger that this procedural choice could impede (perhaps greatly) the ultimate effect of the Plan, which is to promote jobs, growth, and economic recovery.
"The Plan itself (rumored to run about 2000 pages) will recommend further actions to be taken by the FCC, the Congress, other departments of the federal government, as well as state and local governments. Many of these recommendations will be very useful in bringing this nation closer to the consensus goal of universal, affordable broadband Internet services for all, including directed subsidies, adoption programs, rationalization of utility pole rates, and making 500 MHz of spectrum newly available for mobile broadband uses. Will the other governmental entities whose actions are required to implement the recommendations feel as compelled to follow the recommendations of the Plan when it does not even bear the imprimatur of an affirmative vote of a majority of the sitting Commissioners? It would be a shame if all the time and money spent developing this very important Plan were put at risk by the decision to have the FCC vote on only a broadband policy statement setting broad goals, when it is the detailed manner of implementation of broadly-worded policy goals that really matters."
Esbin is available for further comment. Please contact Mike Wendy firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. It is a 501(c)(3) research & educational organization.