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Deployment of Broadband Services

Updated: June 4, 2003

Issue:

Providing greater access to broadband services for entrepreneurs and their customers will greatly enhance the prospects for online communications and electronic commerce. Industry and the public sector are seeking to determine whether existing regulations are appropriate for today's broadband technologies like cable modem, DSL, and satellite and fixed wireless, or whether new regulations are necessary.

The public has come to equate "broadband" with high-speed access to the Internet. Broadband is defined without regard to any specific transmission media or technology. It includes telephony, cable, satellite, and wireless technologies.

Governmental Activity:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stated "Broadband access is among the most compelling issues in the communications industry today. Important regulatory and legal decisions affecting how Americans receive high speed Internet access, voice, video and data services-whether through cable modem, DSL, wireless or satellite-can affect the fates of many companies involved in the development and deployment of broadband services."

The technology industry has urged the federal government to adopt a broadband deployment goal of 100 megabits per second to 100 million small businesses and home over the next ten years, but the industry is concerned that federal, state and local government policies have failed to encourage investment in new broadband infrastructure to meet this goal.

There are a variety of perspectives about the proper regulatory approach to attain this goal because incumbent local exchange carriers (Regional Bell Operating Companies) and local cable companies are Internet access providers that also own the connection to the customer's premises:
  • Some observers are concerned that these access providers may provide customers with unwanted services, limits on wanted services, or restrictions on upstream Internet use and have proposed regulation of the Internet that would mandate "open access".
  • Others fear that regulation of Internet access at the local or state level would fragment the Internet and instead call for the FCC to regulate with similar goals.
  • Still others urge regulatory forbearance, arguing that competition among the different pipelines will accelerate the availability of broadband services and will provide checks on inappropriate combination of services or restrictions on access.
Software Council Position:

Adopted in 2000
We believe that broadband services (high-speed IP connectivity) should be universally available and affordable. We believe that a market-based economy promotes competition among broadband providers and stimulates innovation in applications, services and next generation infrastructure. We support the growth and development of all forms of broadband, and we are neutral as to which will prevail in the market.

Adopted in 2002
We believe that federal policies should permit providers who invest in their own facilities to charge Fair Rates to providers who lease these facilities, but on the condition that facilities-based providers implement Open Network Standards and Non-Discriminatory Practices. This condition is necessary in order to promote innovation and competition.

Adopted in 2003
The Council has opposed a bill before the Massachusetts legislature that would authorize municipalities to impose the personal property tax upon investments in switches, data hubs, and fiber optic lines made by telecommunications and cable providers, because it would discourage price-sensitive small businesses and home offices from adopting broadband services.

Software Council Activity:

The Council’s goal has been to stimulate new demand for applications, systems, services and tools by encouraging telecommunications providers to invest in the deployment of fiber to small businesses; to expand the reach of current broadband networks into under-served areas; and to introduce new technologies into local networks.

In 2000, the Council and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) created MassBroadband, a statewide coalition of technology leaders and economic development officials that worked to accelerate the deployment of competitive broadband services throughout Massachusetts by sponsoring research and educational forums and by identifying new policy initiatives. MassBroadband is "technology neutral," and supported the growth and development of all forms of broadband in the marketplace.

MassBroadband met with broadband service providers to discuss their deployment plans for Massachusetts, and sponsored the Massachusetts Broadband Futures Conference in June 2002, which presented a Broadband Road Map for public discussion.

For further information, see http://www.massbroadband.org.
 

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