The FCC avoids the easy solution to broadband problem

Wednesday, March 17, 2010; A20

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski's strategy for extending broadband Internet access to rural communities ["Behind on broadband," op-ed, March 14] echoed the Obama administration's efforts in its stimulus package while avoiding the quickest solution.

Since the early 1980s, cellular carriers have enjoyed vast profits from serving urban communities without substantial pressure to use those profits to subsidize the construction of broadband services in less-profitable rural areas. Such cross-subsidization was contemplated in the FCC's rulings regarding construction of broadband networks, but only token efforts have been employed effectively to enforce this legislative intent.

If the FCC changed its rules to make universal delivery of quality broadband services throughout geographic areas a condition of renewal of licenses for wireless broadband services, companies such as Verizon and AT&T would extend networks to unserved areas. But broadband carriers make substantial political contributions, and the FCC ignores the most obvious avenue to extending broadband. Meanwhile, the carriers are sitting on treasure troves of underused radio spectrum that is left unavailable for rural solutions.

Robert Schwaninger, Annandale

The writer, a lawyer, has practiced before the FCC since 1982.

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