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FCC's National Broadband Plan Embraces ACA Proposals

The American Cable Association commended the Federal Communications Commission for producing a forward-looking National Broadband Plan (NBP) that incorporated several key policy recommendations that ACA proposed in an effort to make more efficient use of federal money without overlooking the needs of smaller providers with facilities deployed in thinly populated rural communities.

"ACA is pleased to see a number of areas where the FCC's proposals align closely with suggestions ACA proposed to the agency," American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.

In the plan, the FCC set forth several long-term objectives, including that:

(1) At least 100 million homes in the U.S. should have affordable access to broadband with actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of 50 megabits per second.

(2) The U.S. should have the most robust and innovative wireless networks in the world.

(3) Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service and the means and skills to subscribe to if they choose.

(4) Every community should have affordable access to one gigabit per second broadband service at community institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.

(5) Every first responder should have access to a nationwide interoperable wireless broadband public safety network.

(6) Every American should be able to use broadband to manage his or her home energy consumption.

The NBP said that major funding to achieve many of these goals -- in particular that every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service -- would have to come from reform of the Universal Service Fund, a federal program that provides about $4.6 billion to subsidize carriers offering voice service in high-cost areas.

Tracking recommendations submitted by ACA, the NBP stated that by phasing out support for voice-only providers over ten years, the FCC would be able to transfer $15.5 billion from the USF's high-cost fund to a newly created Connect America Fund (CAF), which would subsidize broadband access robust enough to support voice service.

"Like the NPB, ACA proposed creation of a new Universal Service Fund for wireline broadband to be funded by reallocating billions of dollars from the USF's existing voice service program," Polka said.

Polka added that the NBP followed other important ACA recommendations.

"The plan calls for new rules that ensure service providers, like small cable operators, can access infrastructure, such as poles, conduits, and rights-of-way, efficiently and at fair prices, which is particularly important for smaller providers in rural areas," he said. "And it calls for expanding the Lifeline and Link-Up programs by allowing subsidies provided to low-income Americans to be used for broadband."

The FCC is expected to launch at least three dozen rulemakings to carry out recommendations in the NBP, which also made a host of policy recommendations for the White House, Congress and various state government agencies to carry out because they fell outside the agency's jurisdiction.

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