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Broadband Roundup: Caution on E-Rate, Merger Review Teams at FCC, and a New Akamai Internet Speed Report




WASHINGTON, July 8, 2014 – Federal Communications Commissioner Michael O’Rielly supports modernizing the E-Rate program, but not if it means increasing the “ever growing strain on [the average American’s] pocketbook,” he wrote in a blog post Monday.

The solution to increasing the program size, O’Rielly said, is to cut spending to outdated technologies, like long distance phone service and paging, and reallocate it to “reflect the current needs of students in the 21st Century.” The commissioner also stressed the need to “greatly improve transparency and do far more to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.”

“The solution to any E-Rate problems, however, cannot simply be a blanket call to further increase overall [Universal Service Fund] spending,” O’Rielly said. “Doing so would only exacerbate the spending increases already anticipated.”

The FCC is also preparing to review the Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV mergers. The teams in charge of the review were announced in an FCC statement. General Counsel Jonathan Sallet will lead the steering committee in charge of coordinating the reviews of both mergers.

FCC attorney Hillary Burchuk will head the review of the proposed Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger while Jamillia Ferris, a former antitrust attorney at the Department of Justice, will do the same for the AT&T/DirecTV merger.

New details have emerged about FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s recent visit to Silicon Valley. He told tech leaders there that it will be “politically more difficult” to reclassify broadband as a common carrier and that Title II would not necessarily ban paid prioritization, according to a according to an ex parte filing from Paul Sieminsk, general counsel for Automattic, a web development and cloud-based company, and one of the meeting’s participants.

“We think the chairman should not focus on what’s easiest to do in Washington, DC. Rather, the FCC chairman should begin with the correct policy, which is keeping access to the Internet open and neutral as it has been historically,” Sieminski said.

Akamai’s “State of the Internet Report” revealed that Internet speeds worldwide became faster over the first quarter of 2014, according to Motherboard. The average connection speed increased by 1.8 percent to reach 3.9 Megabits per second (Mbps).

The average American Internet speed is now 10.5 Mbps, which is a 31 percent increase from last year. Virginia, in particular, has the highest average connection speed at 13.7 Mbps.


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