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CONTACT: Mike Wendy
March 30, 2010
(202) 289-8928
FCC's Broadband Plan Tells Good Story but Remains Puzzling
PFF Essay Lauds Positive View of Broadband Market, Questions Calls for Regulation

WASHINGTON D.C. — The Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan has a positive story to tell about the state of America's broadband marketplace. Yet its disparate puzzle pieces—especially those that appear to call for more regulation—seem disjointed and at odds with the Plan's market-driven facts and data. Consequently, the FCC must move carefully with the Plan's implementation so that U.S. broadband deployment is not hindered by new, unwarranted rules. So says Barbara Esbin, PFF Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Communications and Competition Policy, in her just-released essay, entitled, "The Puzzling Case of the FCC's Broadband Plan."

With last year's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Congress called on the FCC to develop a national broadband plan which would ensure that "all the people of the United States have access to broadband capability." Earlier this month, the FCC delivered the Plan to the Congress and the American people. The 376-page Plan takes a holistic look at the role of broadband Internet investment, deployment, competition and adoption in our society and economy.

As Esbin notes in her essay, "… the Plan is like two separate jigsaw puzzles forming two separate pictures: the data-driven results pieces, which taken together form the image of a mostly healthy broadband Internet ecosystem in need a few tweaks; and the regulatory action pieces, which taken together form an image of regulatory proceedings aimed not at correcting market failure, but perfecting market outcomes … only loosely tied to evidence of any serious or sustained market failure or the exercise of market power."

Lacking data which show market failure, Esbin believes the FCC stands on shaky ground if it wants to regulate broadband Internet access like common carrier services. According to Esbin, the Plan demonstrates that "our domestic broadband Internet marketplace is motoring along rather well." And though the market "may require a tune-up, or an oil-change, a new coat of paint perhaps … it certainly does not need, and would not benefit from, an extreme regulatory make-over" akin to so-called Title II regulations, which the medium has immensely benefited from by largely avoiding.

In the final analysis, Esbin urges regulatory restraint, hoping that the "FCC will review the Plan critically, choose to implement the many portions of the Plan that will move the nation forward on broadband deployment and adoption, and refrain from those recommendations that would either stall forward progress, or lead us backward."

The paper may be viewed online here. For further information, please contact Mike Wendy at

The Progress & Freedom Foundation is a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy. PFF is a 501(c)(3) research & educational non-profit.



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