The Biden administration urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt strong rules to redress historic shortfalls that have left some communities lacking adequate broadband service.
(Bloomberg) — The Biden administration urged the Federal Communications Commission to adopt strong rules to redress historic shortfalls that have left some communities lacking adequate broadband service.
The position sets up a possible clash with large broadband providers that have warned the FCC, which is set to produce rules by next month, against unnecessary regulations.
Clear rules are needed to close the digital divide that leaves millions without adequate broadband, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said in a statement. The Commerce Department unit advises the president and develops internet policy.
“Strong rules are needed to remedy unequal access to internet service, no matter what the cause may be,” said Alan Davidson, the assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, who is also the NTIA’s top official. “Rules that combat digital discrimination will bring lasting relief to vulnerable communities that historically have been left behind online.”
The FCC is considering regulations to prevent and eliminate digital discrimination of access based on income level, race and other factors, according to Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
Broadband advocates have told the agency they want deep changes that will steer spending into cities. Some urban neighborhoods have suffered from disinvestment dating back to redlining decades ago, when government-aided discriminatory lending patterns starved neighborhoods of housing resources. Many of those areas still aren’t prosperous, and haven’t seen network upgrades.
The largest US telecommunications companies in earlier filings at the FCC moved to fend off rules that might require them to build new networks in areas deemed to be digitally deprived.
AT&T Inc., in a filing, warned the FCC against a “radical proposal for a new era of command-and-control regulation of a major US economic sector.” Verizon Communications Inc. said that “the commission should not commandeer providers’ investment decision-making.” USTelecom-The Broadband Association, the industry group representing scores of companies, urged regulators to refrain from “new and unnecessary regulations.”
The FCC separately is poised to consider net neutrality rules that would restore authority to regulate broadband. Those regulations would allow the FCC to require broadband providers to report and address internet outages, like the FCC does for voice service today, the agency said Thursday in a statement.
The agency in September gained its first Democratic majority of the Biden administration after an earlier nominee failed to win US Senate approval.
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