FCC forms task force to speed up broadband deployment

Swift broadband deployment was the topic at the FCC this week as the commission hosted an FCC forum that saw Chairman Julius Genachowski announce the formation of an internal FCC task force dedicated to identifying ways to reduce obstacles to broadband deployment.

Genachowski is challenging the task force, using suggestions from the public, to end regulatory barriers and reduce the time required for broadband deployment by 20 percent.

Several members of the telecom industry and Congressional telecom advisors participated in this week's forum, offering numerous ideas for accelerating broadband deployments. Matthew Hussey, telecom advisor to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), noted that if all U.S. government buildings offer Wi-Fi coverage and included femtocell base stations, broadband availability would be significantly increased.

Snowe introduced a bill last year that would allocate $15 million to install Wi-Fi networks and femtocells in all federal buildings. The legislation would also simplify the broadband rights-of-way process on federal land and in federal buildings. Hussey cited the fact that the U.S. General Services Administration manages more than 8,500 buildings across the nation, while the U.S. Postal Service has more than 36,000 post offices.

Meanwhile, the FCC is poised to vote on potentially far-reaching reforms to the $8 billion Universal Service Fund program as part of an effort to transform a fund that was intended to help pay for the deployment of telecommunications services in rural America into one that is more focused on broadband deployment. As part of that effort, which is expected to take years, rural wireless carriers that have been receiving USF funds could see a reduction in their stipend, analysts said.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski previewed the long-sought reforms to the USF and the Intercarrier Compensation Fund in a speech at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Genachowski said the current approach is "unsustainable" and called for several key reforms, including:

  • Changes to intercarrier compensation rules to stop waste and reduce disputes that result when companies exploit loopholes.
  • A multi-year transition path, in partnership with states, to phase down intercarrier payments and shift any necessary recovery to USF.
  • Transitioning USF funding that is not being used efficiently to the FCC's Connect America Fund for expanding broadband access.
  • Performance goals and reporting requirements to increase the accountability of USF recipients.

For more:
- see this Network World article
- read this FierceWireless article

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