Keep minority voice in the broadband dialogue
Washington, D.C. (September 9, 2010) The Japanese American Citizens League, the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil and human rights organization, issued a statement in regard to the FCC’s recent announcement on broadband regulation. The Federal Communications Commission through its Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service released its Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on September 3, 2010 regarding the issues of High-Cost Universal Service Support.
The NPRM undertakes steps described as fiscally responsible universal service fund reform, in part to enforce the delay in what was to be voluntary surrender of high-cost universal support from large wireless phone and data networks to other competitive eligible telecommunications carriers.
Other changes include adjusting the “E-rate funding cap” to inflation to enhance broadband opportunities for children, teachers, schools, and libraries, and to support a Mobility Fund to provide wireless broadband service in areas that lack coverage. It notes rural and Tribal lands, and “long term direct support” of broadband Internet services for all Americans.
Primary goals are of improving 3G wireless broadband service in states with the worst coverage today; improve utilization of the Rural Health Care program to advance telemedicine in rural areas across the country, including Tribal lands; and, in the long term, directly support broadband Internet services for all Americans.
“The Japanese American Citizens League continues to be concerned about the needs in minority and underserved populations in achieving universal broadband access. We encourage the FCC to continue pursuing a compromise that benefits every sector of the economy as it considers additional comments in the debate over the open Internet,” said Floyd Mori, JACL National Executive Director.
“While we feel that the present process is a good step in the right direction, we feel that the focus should remain on the FCC’s efforts in implementing the policies set forth in the National Broadband Plan,” continued Mori.
He added that until the commission acts, this opportunity should be taken to discuss and address the multitude of concerns facing minority and underserved communities. He said the JACL hopes for the opportunity to voice our concerns and a return to public discourse.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated that by reforming the Universal Service Fund it would help broadband become the 21st century engine for economic growth and job creation, and to ensure that the benefits of high-speed Internet extend to all Americans.
“Today’s decision ensures that USF support for mobile voice that Verizon Wireless and Sprint had previously agreed to relinquish will be used as a down payment on broadband universal service reform,” he added.
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps stated that the Commission had the opportunity in 2008 to reform Universal Service and put America back in the vanguard of advanced telecommunications.
Instead, he said the Commission adopted a band-aid approach with an “interim, emergency cap” on CETC support. He said it was not technology neutral and hindered geographic deployment incentives in its intent to contain the High Cost program – and now confronts the matter under “less-than-desirable circumstances.”
The present reform efforts do not go far enough to meet demand, he added, but should prompt and direct impact on meeting the telecommunications needs of schools and libraries across the country.
“High-speed broadband with high-speed decision-making is the need of the hour,” he added. “Now that we have, after many long years, a National Broadband Plan, I look forward to working with the Chairman and all my colleagues to make good things happen.”
The FCC stated on September 2, 2010, that it would emphasize the need to reflect the evolution of performance standards and goals for broadband in studying Internet access service subscribers to better monitor trends.
Titled “Internet Access Services: Status as of June 2009,” the report includes first time detailed data on the number of Internet connections at speeds that approximate the national broadband availability target recommended by the National Broadband Plan. The report also focuses on multiple and higher speed tiers, rather than on the Commission’s historical categories of “high speed” (any Internet connection with speeds over 200 kilobits per second downstream) or “advanced services.”
Report highlights note that out of a total of 71 million fixed – as opposed to mobile – connections to households, only 44 percent met or exceeded the speed tier that most closely approximates the universal availability target set in the National Broadband Plan of 4 megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.
The report also noted that the number of mobile wireless service subscribers with data plans for full Internet access increased by 40 percent to over 35 million in the first six months of 2009. At the same time, cable modem connections increased by 3 percent to 41 million and DSL by 1 percent to 31 million.
There was also a 23 percent increase in fiber connections, to 4 million, which was the largest rate of increase among fixed-location technologies. Satellite Internet connections increased by 6 percent to 1 million.