Federal Communications Commission

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Universal Service Reform Act of 2010

September 17th, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Wireline Competition Bureau Deputy Chief Carol Mattey testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet Thursday regarding H.R. 5828, the Universal Service Reform Act of 2010.  Here are her written remarks.

Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today about the important subject of universal service and H.R. 5828, the Universal Service Reform Act of 2010.

Following the introduction of H.R. 5828, Representative Terry stated that the bill’s goal is to ensure “everyone in America is connected into the 21st century telecommunications world.”  That objective is broadly shared by the FCC as we undertake the process of considering the recommendations included in the National Broadband Plan submitted to Congress in March.

The National Broadband Plan recognized the important role that the private sector has played and must continue to play in investing in broadband facilities as well as promoting investment and innovation in broadband technologies and services.  But, as Chairman Boucher and Representative Terry noted when introducing H.R. 5828, some Americans live in areas for which there simply is not an economic case for any provider to build, upgrade and maintain vital communications infrastructure.  That is why we have what is known as the high cost program in the Universal Service Fund.

Universal service historically has been a significant success story in the United States.  In addition to incenting the private sector to bring affordable voice service to virtually all reaches of the country, the existing high cost program has played an important role in strengthening communities and our economy by supporting modern networks capable of delivering broadband as well as voice services to millions of rural Americans who would not otherwise have such access.  For example, the National Exchange Carriers’ Association reported that a sampling of small telephone companies made approximately $5 billion of gross investments, mostly to modernize their networks, between 2006 and 2009.

But, as I’m sure many of your constituents tell you, the current system, which wasn’t designed to explicitly support broadband, is not working for everyone.

[Read more]

Lessons for Cities from the National Broadband Plan

June 8th, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Director of Consumer Research John Horrigan prepared this speech last week for delivery at the event "High Speed Fiber and Baltimore's Future" in Baltimore. 

Today, I would like to give you a brief “Broadband Plan 101” lesson – and do so in a way that leaves you with a sense of how Baltimore can put broadband to work for economic and community development. The grand vision, as laid out in the National Broadband Plan (NBP), is to have 90% of America connected to 100 Mbps home broadband by 2020. It is heartening to see Baltimore – the place I call home – be one of the first cities since the Plan’s release to convene an event focused on how best to use high-speed connectivity for economic and community development.

[Read the full speech here.]

Don't Forget: May 6 Workshop on Broadband Availability Gap Technical Paper

April 30th, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Don’t forget that about the workshop on Thursday in which FCC staff will take a look under the hood of the economic model used in the National Broadband Plan to develop an estimate of the gap between the cost of deploying broadband services to the 14 million or more Americans living in unserved areas and the potential additional revenue generated from the broadband investment. Deployment Director Rob Curtis blogged about the technical paper that describes in detail how the $24 billion estimate was derived.  Rob and others will be on hand to answer your questions about the model and the technical paper.  The workshop is scheduled for Thursday, May 6, 2010, 3:00 p.m. EDT in the FCC Commission Room at 445 12th St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20554.  Or you can watch it online at

The Fourth Challenge

April 30th, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Omnibus Broadband Initiative Executive Director Blair Levin prepared this speech today for delivery at a forum at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research at Stanford University.

It’s getting to be graduation time, both for the class of 2010 and for those of us who spent the last year working on the National Broadband Plan.

So this speech is kind of a valedictory address, a capstone that implores policymakers today—that’s us—and in the future—that’s you—to confront the most critical challenge to our national broadband future.

Before I discuss that challenge, I want to thank all of you for hosting me here today. 

Thanks in particular to Greg Rossten for that kind introduction.

Last June, I rejoined the FCC to assist in writing the National Broadband Plan.

Already, one-third of the time Congress had allotted to write the Plan had passed. There was no staff dedicated to its completion and it had no clear budget.

[Read the full speech here.]

Private Investment and the National Broadband Plan

April 23rd, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Omnibus Broadband Initiative Executive Director Blair Levin gave this speech Wednesday at the Congressional Internet Caucus’ State of the Mobile Internet Conference in Washington, D.C.

"Over the last 9 months, I had the pleasure of working with a wonderful team who dedicated every day to trying to figure out how America could have the healthiest broadband ecosystem in the world.

Our answer is complex, filling more than 300 pages of Plan and hundreds more of post-Plan technical papers.

But one consistent theme is that the health of that ecosystem depends heavily—in fact, primarily—on private investment.

Today I want to discuss how we thought about private investment–in particular, the relationship between private investment and the mobile Internet.

If we get the implementation of the mobile piece of the Plan right, we can precipitate a massive private investment boom and build a world-leading broadband ecosystem.... "

[Read the full speech here.]

Owning the Inevitable

April 20th, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Omnibus Broadband Initiative Executive Director Blair Levin gave this speech on April 20 at the American Cable Association’s 17th Summit at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in Maryland.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got in terms of investing was to “own the inevitable.”

To “own the inevitable”: To invest in those areas for which success—or failure—are already written on the proverbial wall.

Those words provide insight.

But not a complete answer.

It’s always important to make sure your bets are consistent with the macro trends.

But even if there are certain inevitabilities you can see generally—a rough outline of the shape of the future---you cannot clearly see, for example, specific winners or losers or critical, formative details.

[Read the full speech.]

Overcoming Confirmation Bias

April 19th, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Prepared remarks by Blair Levin at the roundtable discussion on the National Broadband Plan sponsored by the Columbia Institute for Teleinformation (CITI) and the New York Law School Media Center, April 19, 2010.

The path of progress, whether for an individual or a society, depends on the destruction of confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is the tendency for people to interpret information in a way that confirms their existing beliefs.

But as Williams College Math Professor Edward Burger observed, all education—and in a broad sense, all innovation--only occurs when one sees a series of facts in the light of a new pattern.

[Read the full speech here.]

Getting More Older Americans Online

April 6th, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

OBI Executive Director Blair Levin provided introductory remarks at an event sponsored by a group whose mission is to increase broadband adoption among older Americans, called Project GOAL (Get Older Adults Online).  The Plan reported that only 35% of older Americans have broadband at home, compared to 65% of the general public. The Plan makes a number of recommendations designed to increase adoption rates for older Americans.

Thank you, Debra, for the introduction.

And many thanks for your many contributions in helping develop America’s Broadband plan.

In the preface to the Broadband Plan, we asserted America itself was the author of the Plan.

True--our team at the FCC put the final pen to paper, locked for months in a conference room full of old drafts and cheap Chinese food and Pizza—please don’t tell the First Lady about our diet.

But we really believe America wrote this Plan because so many helped in its formation.

The public contributed ideas:

  • in hearings across the country, from San Diego to Charleston;  and
  • in the more than 30 workshops held at the FCC, which were simulcast online so that everybody could participate—as long as they had a broadband connection.

[Read the full speech here.]

A Plan of Firsts

March 23rd, 2010 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

Omnibus Broadband Initiative Executive Director Blair Levin gave a speech entitled “A Plan of Firsts” as part of a panel convened by the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy at the National Press Club to discuss early reactions to the National Broadband Plan.

Ours is a plan of firsts.

Our Plan marks the first time the federal government did an in-depth survey of non-adopters of broadband, to understand what influences that choice, a prerequisite to increasing adoption rates.

Our Plan marks the first time the federal government did a cost model to determine the net present value private investment gap for communities not served by broadband, a pre-requisite for moving universal service to support broadband.

[Read the full speech here.]

Field Hearing in Austin, TX

September 21st, 2009 by Mark Wigfield - Spokesman, Omnibus Broadband Initiative.

In an effort to solicit input from the public in the development of a National Broadband Plan, the Commission will host a field hearing on September 21, 2009, in Austin, Texas. FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker will represent the Commission and two panels will explore the challenges of broadband deployment in Texas, including spectrum access, infrastructure, and rural issues.

Click here to watch the event live and submit your questions to have them asked during the Q&A session. Use hashtag #BBwkshp or email them.

After today, the next two field hearings will be on October 1 in the Washington, D.C. area, and October 6 in Charleston, South Carolina.  Watch the blog and the news page of for details.

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