Digital researchers submit broadband policy recommendations to FCC

Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Emerging Media

December 3, 2009

A closer examination of recent efforts to deregulate telecommunication industries within various states — along with evidence of accompanying economic growth — is necessary before the federal government crafts a new national broadband policy, say Ball State University researchers.

Based on Ball State's leadership in the field of emerging media and its Digital Policy Institute's (DPI) broadband expertise, the university was contacted to submit several recommendations about a study conducted for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) by Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. The center was charged with providing an expert review of existing literature and studies about broadband deployment policies pursued by other countries.

"The premise of the FCC-supported Berkman study is that ubiquitous, seamless, high- capacity connectivity is a shared goal worldwide," said Robert Yadon, professor of information and communication sciences and DPI senior research fellow. "As such, thorough study of the state of broadband connectivity, both domestically and the world over, is essential to understanding the current landscape and to formulating forward-looking policies that can work."

The Harvard study is part of the FCC's efforts to craft a national broadband plan by early next year, as required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the federal economic stimulus plan.

This is the second time that DPI researchers have worked on an ARRA project. Earlier this year, DPI submitted a proposal to Congress that would bring next-generation broadband service to rural and traditionally underserved areas of the country and immediately create jobs.

Research into the impact of emerging technology is a component of Ball State's $17.7 million Emerging Media Initiative (EMI). In the last several months, the university has won several international and national awards for this initiative, which builds on Ball State's historic strengths and will invest institutional and new private resources toward making emerging media a pillar industry of the Hoosier economy.

Catalyst for growth

Yadon and other DPI researchers recommend that the Berkman Center research team at Harvard Law School extend the study's timeline in developing a baseline for understanding U.S. telecommunications deregulatory policy. The current study looks at deregulation from 1996 to 2002.

Yadon believes better informed policy making will result if the FCC is able to consider a more complete and timely arc of telecommunications deregulation.

"DPI has studied intensively the statewide video franchise deregulation in telecommunications, with specific reference to its impact on broadband deployment, said Barry Umansky, professor of telecommunications and DPI senior research fellow, who contributed to DPI's first report, "The Economic Impact of Telecom Reform in Indiana: 2006."

"That report concluded that broadband deployment was a catalyst for growth, that the impact of new competition would be immediate with the potential to save Indiana cable subscribers up to $262 million annually," he said. "Statewide franchising is key to a uniform, fair framework to attract outside investment necessary for broadband deployment across the state."

Since 2006, DPI researchers have conducted similar studies in Michigan, Missouri and Ohio about telecommunications and video franchise reform. DPI also is continuing to study statewide video franchising and its effect upon broadband access and development nationwide, including the development of comprehensive databases on broadband deployment and the potential economic benefits of such deployment. 

More study needed

In the FCC filing, DPI researchers noted three underdeveloped research areas referenced in the Berkman study:

  • how a better understanding of municipal and regional investments may help inform the FCC about public investment models
  •  need for empirical analyses or case studies of broadband's impact on adult education and workplace training
  • effects of higher broadband adoption rates on commerce cost, quality of government services and consumer utility versus the cost of any policy or regulatory intervention.

The recommendations may be found at www.bsu.edu/digitalpolicy/media/pdf/CommentsonBerkmanReport.pdf.

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