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FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai Presents Plan To Grow Broadband

The FCC has been busy this year pushing through Tom Wheeler’s Rules Of The Open Internet. This new legislation radically changes broadband and the inner workings of the Internet, but it has been heavily opposed by ISPs and politicians since its initial draft. Today, Ajit Pai, one of the lead opponents of Wheeler’s Open Internet policies and a fellow FCC Commissioner, introduced his own plan for improving America’s Internet.

Ajit Pai is one of only two current FCC Commissioners who has voted against every aspect of the Open Internet legislation passed over the past six months. Commissioner Pai and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly have pointed out that the changes are radical, and instead view them as harmful to the free market and the rights of companies.

Pai is adamant that broadband and Internet service can be improved by more subtle change. Ajit wants to prove this is possible, and he presented a two-part plan to advance one of the FCC's key goals: expanding broadband service in rural America.

The first part of the plan is to change the support scheme used with current Internet and telephone services in these areas. Pai stated that currently, unless a user purchases a service plan that includes telephone service, they do not get line support from the government. As a result, companies cannot afford to offer standalone broadband service, which some customers desire, because of the added expense. Thus, the first part of the plan is to add some measure of line support to standalone broadband services.

The second part of the plan is to ease cooperation between ISPs and organizations like the Connect America Fund, so they can coordinate and share the expense of growing broadband coverage. This would cut costs for growing the ISPs' coverage area, and thus encourage growth.

The problem with the plan presented, however, is that it does not deal with companies refusing to compete with each other. Though there are rural areas in America that still lack any broadband service, if ISPs purposefully won't compete, that won't do anything to change the situation for most Americans.

Looking at this plan, it seems that it will have little effect on broadband overall, only potentially growing broadband coverage in some rural areas. All of this could simply be a way for Pai to drum up political support by way of providing a token alternative to improving broadband access. He quoted other politicians several times in speaking out against the Open Internet.

One such statement that clearly opposes the Open Internet regulations came from Senators John Thune, Amy Klobuchar and Deb Fischer, who stated, "No new models or sweeping changes are needed to adopt and implement a targeted update to fix the issue...instead, a simple plan that isolates and solves this specific issue is all that is needed right now."

Overall, this move by Pai appears to be a political effort to gain support to kill the Open Internet legislation. If plans like this are effective in addressing problems, it would show that some issues don't need changes as drastic as those presented by Wheeler. However, this fails to address key factors that prevent companies from growing, such as the refusal of companies to compete with each other.

It is possible that this plan could have some effect on expanding broadband into rural areas of America without broadband service, but that isn't all we should want from this plan. If it's successful, and the Open Internet is ultimately revoked, what we should be concerned about is what future plans will be presented to deal with the other Internet issues. Smaller plans could, over time, deal with the security, privacy, performance and other issues that the Open Internet bill already addresses, but it would take much longer and likely have a smaller effect on the overall operations of ISPs and the Internet.

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  • drwho1
    This guy is all about the ISP's rights, protecting their wallets....
    Someone, please get rid of him, politicians, and everyone who is against progress.

    I hope that the FCC plan prevails, and we can see a truly Cheaper and Faster Internet in the USA.
    Reply
  • falchard
    I like Pai, he actually understands how private sector infrastructure spending works. The article's author clearly does not understand the structural hurdles, the current regulations proposed on ISPs, the '90s internet boom, and the reason for no competition.
    Its not companies refusing to compete against each other. Its municipal governments preventing companies from competing with each other. Take San Diego for instance. Most of San Diego County has access to Cox Cable. However, there are some poor SOBs who only have the choice of Time Warner Cable and ATT; mainly in the new development areas. Now Cox Cable is a fantastic ISP, do you think Cox which would probably gain over 60% of the population in this area as customers would not want to compete in those areas? They have already been granted the opportunity to compete in Poway where they now dominate.
    The core issue is that Time Warner pays the municipal governments to be the only cable company in those markets.
    Reply
  • Bezzell
    I want ten or more ISPs competing for my business in my town. I want them to woo me with great customer service and competitive prices. However it happens, I want it.
    Reply
  • jasonelmore
    the only plan they need to come up with, is a plan that makes duo-opolies illegal and promotes competition.

    Competition will fix pretty much everything.
    Reply
  • targetdrone
    I like Pai, he actually understands how private sector infrastructure spending works. The article's author clearly does not understand the structural hurdles, the current regulations proposed on ISPs, the '90s internet boom, and the reason for no competition.
    Its not companies refusing to compete against each other. Its municipal governments preventing companies from competing with each other. Take San Diego for instance. Most of San Diego County has access to Cox Cable. However, there are some poor SOBs who only have the choice of Time Warner Cable and ATT; mainly in the new development areas. Now Cox Cable is a fantastic ISP, do you think Cox which would probably gain over 60% of the population in this area as customers would not want to compete in those areas? They have already been granted the opportunity to compete in Poway where they now dominate.
    The core issue is that Time Warner pays the municipal governments to be the only cable company in those markets.

    Recently some municipal governments got sick and tired of the likes of The Cartel(i.e Time Warner, Comcat, Cox, ect) and moved to form their own ISPs. The Cartel then cried to and bought off the State Governments to protect The Cartel's bottom line. This happened in Tennessee and North Carolina and Kansas.
    Reply
  • IInuyasha74
    the only plan they need to come up with, is a plan that makes duo-opolies illegal and promotes competition.

    Competition will fix pretty much everything.

    I'm inclined to agree that all of the problems users face in terms of performance, price, and coverage would be fixed if they could get the companies to compete against each other. There are some other security, privacy, etc. things that also need addressed that competition would not fix, but really most of the problems would be fixed with competition. Actually, since the FCC wouldn't have to be fighting with ISPs to upgrade their networks and provide better service, they would probably be able to focus their attention on these other issues, and ultimately fix everything wrong with the Internet faster.

    Those who are saying that competition is limited by municipal governments isn't completely accurate. The cable and phone lines are given off to specific companies, but there is nothing to prevent other companies from running their own infrastructure. That is part of the line service mentioned in the article above, and it does give those companies an advantage. However, that doesn't stop other ISPs from offering their service. I live in a fairly rural area in southern Ohio. There is only about 5,000 people in my city, at least that is my best estimate. The biggest city within an hours drive is only 60,000 people.

    Anyways, where I am at there are four ISPs that I know of. There is a company called Armstrong which controls the cable lines. Verizon, AT&T, and Frontier all offer service in this same county. Frontier uses satellite based service, and Verizon has been using fiber optic based service. I am not sure what AT&T uses.

    If I call AT&T and ask to get their service, their customer service associates will transfer me to Frontier. If I call Verizon, the same thing happens. It isn't that they don't offer service here, I know people who live just a few roads over that have these services. Here it seems that the companies have decided to cut up the county into zones of control and refuse to compete with each other in this area, even though they could.
    Reply
  • thor220
    Ajit Pai, running for toolbag of the year. Voted against the open internet at every step and receives most of him campaign contributions for companies like verizon and comcast.

    The only reason he's backed done from his previously vehement stance against Net Neutrality is because it would prove wildly unpopular, especially given the string of successes shortly after it was put into place.
    Reply
  • Eblislyge
    200 Billion! 200 Billion dollars have already been paid to these money grubbing scheming pieces of human refuse! The US taxpayers have already paid to have this country wired up the wazoo with high speed fiber from sea to shining sea.

    Every damn bit of this is nothing but a giant scam to milk the taxpayers for even more money. They do not want competition. Comcast alone had over 8 Billion of free and clear cash from 2014 profits alone. Now they stand with their hand out asking for money from taxpayers so they can add more customers to pay them more money?

    Give these money grubbers a choice, either offer fast reliable internet to the nation at reasonable prices and compete or we will take back the 200 billion already paid and use that money to form a national non profit internet provider which runs fiber to every nook and cranny it can find offering gigabyte speeds for cost and then let the telcos and cable giants compete with that. Their choice!
    Reply
  • SoiledBottom
    The only thing missing from the article picture is an Asian guy or gal...its a rainbow of humanity
    Reply
  • junkeymonkey
    I'd like a plan that forces companies like at&t to give us poor s.o b.'s in poor rural areas hi speed internet.. here where I live the best hard wire internet is still 56k .. I mean its 2015 and that's the best they can provide to me ?? how sad is that , but my phone bill is just the same as someone in big town who get it all ? wheres any fairness in that ??
    Reply