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Progress and Freedom Foundation

Progress and Freedom Foundation Closes Shop

in Media by

WASHINGTON, October 4, 2010 – The Progress & Freedom Foundation has announced that it’s closing shop after 17 years as a technology policy think tank. It shut down Friday, Oct. 1.

PFF studied the digital revolution and its implications for public policy while advocating a philosophy of limited government, free markets, property rights and individual sovereignty, the group said in its announcement. The organization convened numerous policy events, including its nationally recognized annual Aspen Summit, which brought together leading thinkers and policy makers in the field.

“PFF has had an amazing 17-year run,” said PFF’s last president, Adam Thierer. “It’s been a great honor to be with PFF for the past five years and I’m extremely proud of everything the organization has accomplished. PFF will be remembered by its scores of scholars and the hundreds of participants in its programs over the years as a cutting-edge research institution that generated exciting ideas in communications, media and high-tech policy. We’re all very proud of the PFF legacy.”

The group’s web site is still available online at pff.org, where the think tank’s scholarly work is available.

Experts Debate Causes, Cures for Cyber Bullying and High Risk Behaviors

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/Cybersecurity/National Broadband Plan/NTIA/Privacy by

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2010 – The best way to avoid cyber bullying is not to be a teenage girl, said an expert on Tuesday at a panel discussion hosted by the Progress and Freedom Foundation.

The remarks, made by Michael McKeehan, Verizon’s executive director of internet and technology policy, were in response to a question on “high risk behaviors” that lead children to become targets of online bullies.

McKeehan was participating in a panel titled, “Sending an Online Safety Message to Congress,” which addressed challenges and potential solutions that face Congress, communications agencies and others in crafting a strategy to keep children safe from abuse over the internet.

According to McKeehan, this abuse is often gendered, because while boys “will punch each other in the nose and then play baseball,” girls are statistically more likely to engage in prolonged, escalating bouts of abuse.

This gender dichotomy was not the only problem covered at the panel. According to Larry Magid, co-director of ConnectSafety.org, “risk factors” abound on the internet for young children. While 95 percent of children avoid these threats, a statistically significant portion of them will inevitably engage in such behaviors, he said.

Among these risk factors, Magid cited antisocial behavior such as anonymously attacking other users over forums, a practice known as “trolling” or “griefing.”

“Chat rooms tend to be a more risky environment than social networking sites,” Magid said. He added the caveat that, while widespread distribution of compromising photos to classmates would tend to make one a target for cyber bullying, distributing these photos more narrowly didn’t necessarily correlate with a higher risk for abuse. He drew a clear line between the majority of internet users and those that choose to engage in deviant behavior, either as bullies or victims.

“One of the things that bothers me is that there’s this notion that there’s an epidemic,” Magid said. “The reality is that most kids in America do not bully. Most kids in America do not send out naked pictures of themselves, and those that do don’t distribute them widely to schoolmates. These activities happen, but they don’t affect most kids. The abnormal, aberrant behavior is to act out and bully and sext and harass and use the internet in a destructive or self-destructive manner.”

Panelists debated the prospect of the government setting “defaults” on hardware that automatically would protect children from risqué sites and content the instant the hardware is used. Discussing the problem with these approaches, Adam Thierer, president of the Progress and Freedom Foundation, argued that defaults would be a potentially redundant and overly restrictive approach, given that video game console manufacturers and other software vendors already self-police. Thierer drew on precedent from the console market to make his case.

“[Games rated adults-only] cannot be played on the major three consoles in the United States,” Thierer said. “The question that is really contentious is ‘should the government set a default that is more restrictive than the one that is voluntarily set by the market?’”

Thierer suggested that such a default standard might be too restrictive, to the point of rendering hardware nonfunctional.

Another issue that arose surrounding the issue of child protection was the problem of “data retention,” a process by which internet service providers keep records of all data accessed by their customers, to aid in potential law enforcement investigations. Talking about this problem, McKeehan stressed that while data retention was a priority for corporations, national policy would have to tread lightly so as to not damage consumers’ expectations of privacy.

“You might think law enforcement would want all data retained for all time,” McKeehan said. “You’d be wrong. You might think the privacy advocates would want no data retained. Again, you’d be wrong.”

Panelists agreed on two general arguments when offering their final pieces of advice to Congress: firstly, that a diverse set of approaches was necessary, and secondly, that education was one key element of any strategy.

Speaking on this last point, John Morris, general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, said, “Promote education. Figure out a way to get the resources into the schools to teach kids how to conduct themselves online.”

The talk was moderated by Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, and preceded by a speech from Anna Gomez, deputy assistant secretary for communications and information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Gomez’s speech hit several notes that would be echoed later in the discussion, hitting especially on the need to be wary of “one-size-fits-all” regulations, which Gomez called “a blunt instrument.”

“The first and most important line of defense against harmful content is education,” Gomez said.

Appeals Court Deals Network Neutrality Blow to FCC

in FCC/National Broadband Plan/Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2010 – A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission does not have the power to mandate that broadband provider Comcast must give equal treatment to Internet traffic streaming through its networks.

The ruling by the District of Columbia’s U.S. Court of Appeals is a huge victory for Comcast. The nation’s largest cable firm had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose network neutrality requirements on broadband companies.

The ruling also calls into question the FCC’s ability to implement parts of its recently released National Broadband Plan.

Comcast had challenged an FCC decision in 2008 forbidding the company from blocking its broadband subscribers from using BitTorrent, an online file-sharing technology.

In reaction to the court’s decision, Federal Communications Commission spokeswoman Jen Howard said the agency “is firmly committed to promoting an open Internet and to policies that will bring the enormous benefits of broadband to all Americans,” adding that the decision “invalidated the prior commission’s approach to preserving an open Internet. But the court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open Internet; nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end.”

Proponents of network neutrality were quick to slam the court’s decision.

Parul Desai, vice president of the Media Access Project, said: “I am disappointed in the court’s finding that the commission did not make the case for its authority to take action against Comcast’s blocking of BitTorrent….The commission must have the authority to protect all Internet users against harmful and anticompetitive conduct by Internet service providers.”

Executive Director Markham Erickson of the Open Internet Coalition agreed: “Today’s D.C. Circuit decision in Comcast creates a dangerous situation, one where the health and openness of the Internet is being held hostage by the behavior of the major telco and cable providers.”

Gigi Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, said the court decision means there are “no protections in the law for consumers’ broadband services.”

S. Derek Turner, the research director for Free Press, said the decision forces the FCC into an “existential crisis, leaving the agency unable to protect consumers in the broadband marketplace, and unable to implement the National Broadband Plan.”

But Barbara Esbin, a senior fellow at The Progress & Freedom Foundation, applauded the decision, saying the FCC’s action against Comcast’s Internet network management practices was unlawful because Congress has not delegated to the FCC regulatory authority over the provision of Internet services.

Free State Foundation President Randolph May saw the ruling as a possible impetus for  Congress to begin a rewrite of the Communications Act “which ties the commission’s regulatory activity over broadband explicitly to evidentiary showings of abuse of substantial market power and demonstrable consumer harm.”

A comment from Comcast was not available by press time.

Wireless World Betokens Further Challenges and Opportunities for Broadband

in Wireless by

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2009 – In a year that has been described as transformational and phenomenal for the telecommunications industry, any attempts at regulating the Internet may turn back the good that the industry has enjoyed, and may slow down efforts at innovation, said panelists speaking at a Progress and Freedom Foundation event.

Many on the panel touted wireless mobile internet as the means to get efficient and competitive services to consumers, and they identified the wireless sector as a key component of increased broadband deployment and penetration.

Ruth Milkman, chief of Wireless Telecommunications Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission, commented that smartphones and iPhones and laptops will be in greater use as more wireless connectivity becomes available to consumers.

“Unleashing broadband for use in mobile devices will call for urgent and efficient use of broadband,” said Milkman. “We need to find ways of streamlining processing of applications, and internet should remain open.”

Brett Glass of Lariat.net said that the FCC does not yet know what to regulate, and Net neutrality regulations is a radical solution to a non-existent problem. Innovation enables competition, and that could be blocked if neutrality rules are imposed. Rather, the with internet provider is likely to pay more to get services to the consumers.

“[Lack of regulation] will in turn make the products more desirable to consumers, giving them choices,” said Thomas Hazlett, a professor of economics at George Mason University. Regulation is a complex process, and the government should be careful as they consider stepping into it, he added, asking the government to use wireless frequencies to facilitate greater competition among users of the spectrum.

People want to connect to the Internet, find information or get news from anywhere, at any time – and that is why spectrum is important. Unfortunately, the government is yet to release large swaths of spectrum for use by consumers.

Regulation will also muzzle emerging media such as blogs, said Kathleen Ham, the vice president of federal regulatory affairs at T-Mobile U.S.A.

About BroadbandCensus.com

BroadbandCensus.com was launched in January 2008, and uses “crowdsourcing” to collect the Broadband SPARC: Speeds, Prices, Availability, Reliability and Competition. The news on BroadbandCensus.com is produced by Broadband Census News LLC, a subsidiary of Broadband Census LLC that was created in July 2009.

A recent split of operations helps to clarify the mission of BroadbandCensus.com. Broadband Census Data LLC offers commercial broadband verification services to cities, states, carriers and broadband users. Created in July 2009, Broadband Census Data LLC produced a joint application in the NTIA’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program with Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program. In August 2009, BroadbandCensus.com released a beta map of Columbia, South Carolina, in partnership with Benedict-Allen Community Development Corporation.

Broadband Census News LLC offers daily and weekly reporting, as well as the Broadband Breakfast Club. The Broadband Breakfast Club has been inviting top experts and policy-makers to share breakfast and perspectives on broadband technology and internet policy since October 2008. Both Broadband Census News LLC and Broadband Census Data LLC are subsidiaries of Broadband Census LLC, and are organized in the Commonwealth of Virginia. About BroadbandCensus.com.

Tech Policy Expert Sees U.S. on Right Path to Broadband Growth

in Broadband Stimulus/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, July 31, 2009 – The federal government and broadband grant seekers should be careful as they seek policy to ensure it doesn’t hinder the spreading of high-speed communications system across the nation, a former Commerce Department official and broadband expert said.

Internet Innovation Alliance Co-chairman Bruce Mehlman, who was assistant secretary of Commerce for technology policy during the most recent Bush administration, told BroadbandCensus.com that although many parties with an interest in the debate are displeased with the National Telecommunication and Information Administration’s broadband initiative, the state of the nation’s broadband is not dire.

“Speeds have gone up, prices have gone down, percentages of populations served have expanded,” he said.

But he noted that “the tenor of many of the comments [to the broadband plan] is that the sky is falling and America is the broadband Banana Republic.”

Mehlman pointed to a new study, “The Substantial Consumer Benefits of Broadband Connectivity for U.S. Households” by Jonathan Orszag, Mark Dutz and Robert Willig as evidence that the broadband situation in the United States is healthy.

The study focused on five findings:

1. Consumers receive more than $30 billion of net benefits from the use of fixed-line broadband at home, with broadband increasingly being seen as a necessity;

2. With even higher speed, broadband would provide consumers even greater benefits – at a minimum of an additional $6 billion per year;

3. Significant broadband adoption gaps exist between various groups of households;

4. Among those who have a home broadband connection, there is no significant valuation gap based on race; and

5. The total economic benefits of broadband are significantly larger than our estimates of the consumer benefits from home broadband.

Mehlman said the report shows broadband is an “experience good.” Once people experience it, they value it much more highly than they ever thought they would, which could explain some of the adoption gaps. In effect, to expand broadband by focusing on unserved areas is a good investment, but one that should be done regularly by the private sector.

Broadband also has seen growth through private investment and not just from the government’s coffers, he noted.

“We should recognize that there is an annual investment of $60 to $80 billion that is not government money,” Mehlman said, citing data from researcher Yankee Group. “We should make sure that government decisions don’t deter that investment.”

“In a healthy market you will see adoption up and down the workplace,” he said, “and I’d like to continue to see the wireless versus wireline versus cable versus powerline arms race.”

Mehlman’s attitudes reflect those by economists at a broadband plenary last month held by the Progress and Freedom Foundation. Economists at the event differed on exact reasons why the United States has a successful broadband competition, but said the market works. They said too much regulation – rather than incentive – would be a bad thing.

Emperis Managing Partner Jeffrey Eisenach had said at the PFF forum that regulation of the broadband market would discourage innovation and that “regulations…don’t give enough credence to how capital markets work.”

Mehlman said the federal government should be careful in setting regulation “With mapping underway you shouldn’t presuppose strategy,” he said, referring to the Broadband Data Improvement Act currently open for broadband mapping grants.

Mehlman said policy can make infrastructure investment harder or easier, and if you add regulation it will deter private investment – especially in the unserved and underserved areas, those of prime focus in the current notices of available funds.

“Things are going right,” Mehlman said of the competition, and that any new policy should be done “with caution and humility.”

Parents and Educators Should Focus on Internet Safety Education, Say Online Experts

in Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2009 – Parents and educators need to educate children about online safety issues, rather than censoring content, a panel of think tanks, industry officials, and online safety experts agreed on Monday.

The experts spoke during a panel discussion sponsored by the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a market-oriented think tank that studies the digital revolution and its implications for public policy.

Jim Halpert, a partner at the law firm DLA Piper, cited awareness of how the Internet is used as one of the factors influencing the debate on online safety, privacy, and free speech.

Recently, the focus has shifted from censoring content to promoting education on these issues.

The rise of MySpace was one factor that has raised concern over online safety and privacy issues, according to WiredSafety.org Executive Director Parry Aftab.

When parents are first presented with these issues, she said, they generally respond that it does not impact “my kid” – but then they see their children on MySpace and realize that these issues do apply to them.

Todd Haiken, senior manager of policy at Common Sense Media, agreed with Halpert and Aftab that the main focus now should be on education and empowerment, rather than censorship.

People are starting to realize that this is a “public health” issue, rather than a crime prevention issue,” he said.

Haiken added that if public schools receiving e-Rate funding were required to ensure that students are not able to communicate with predators online, as the proposed Deleting Online Predators Act would have mandated, then students wouldn’t have been able to use the Internet at all.

When this fact became widely known, said Haiken, most observers realized that it would be better to require the schools to provide internet safety education.

Such education is also important because parental controls don’t always work.  After a certain age, teenagers will learn how to get around parental controls, and if content is not available on school computers, they will go somewhere else, he said.

Although age verification requirements have been proposed as a way to protect children’s online safety, Halpert said it is not very effective.

It is usually “expensive and burdensome” for websites to obtain age verification, as well as “narrow and difficult to use,” he said.

A “great shift in expectations” is an important part of this education, according to Berin Szoka, senior fellow and director of the Center for Internet Freedom at the Progress and Freedom Foundation.

“Kids are being used as a device to accomplish other policy goals,” he said.

House Whip: Recovery Package Must Not Leave Rural Areas Behind

in Broadband Stimulus/FCC/National Broadband Plan/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2009 – Widespread broadband deployment and adoption is essential to economic recovery as well as social justice, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C. said Tuesday morning at the July BroadbandCensus.com Breakfast Club.

The recovery package planning process has been “one of the most rewarding experiences” Clyburn has had since joining the Congress, he said.

But while Clyburn compared the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to the New Deal programs of the 1930s, he soberly noted that many of the programs instituted by President Roosevelt left out minority communities like those he represents. “If you go back, you will notice most of the communities that I represent were left out,” he said.

Broadband access in particular could help rural America in areas like health information technology, Clyburn said. If broadband deployment isn’t done correctly, any national health care strategy will fail, he said.

Clyburn’s daughter Mignon Clyburn, formerly of the South Carolina Public Service Commission, has been nominated by President Obama for one of five slots on the Federal Communications Commission.

Mignon Clyburn’s Senate Confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Following introductory remarks was a panel discussion on “How the FCC’s National Broadband Plan Will Affect Spending.” The event was the final breakfast in a four-part series on the broadband stimulus program.

Barbara Esbin, senior fellow and director of the Center for Communications and Competition Policy at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, said that the FCC’s national broadband plan “will look like a larger framework with plans for other plans” and that “if the plan calls for legislation that plan will be in the future.”

Although what the NTIA and RUS have been able to do is “admirable,” many of the projects funded will end up as “case studies,” she said.

What is important, said Paula Boyd, regulatory counsel for Microsoft, is funding projects that are “long-lasting” and “allow for quick build-out and returns.” She noted that the broadband stimulus package passed in February 2009 calls for all spending decisions to be made by September 2010.

Boyd also favored a “lighter touch of regulation.” “To the extent [that] you foster innovation, you will drive demand for broadband,” she said.

One effective way to spend stimulus money would be to build high-capacity fiber deeply into every community, said Michael Calabrese, vice president of the New America Foundation and head of its Wireless Future Program.

Calabrese also recommend applying for a project that combined fiber in the so-called “middle mile” with wireless availability in the ”last mile” on the way to consumers’ homes. That would be the “best way to get the most coverage” serving community anchors by using fiber as a “jumping off point” for wireless deployments, too.

Brett Glass, founder of Lariet.Net, spoke of the importance of broadband to small businesses. “Every one of them benefits from the Internet,” he said.

Glass spoke of how his business tried to extend fiber to areas outside of college campuses.

At the time, he said, wholesale broadband costs were high. Although the problem has ameliorated, there still exist bottlenecks in the middle mile caused by limited competition to hook up with fiber backbones.

In response to a question about how rural states with “spotty” broadband should apply for grants, Glass said that state governments should facilitate broadband development but not apply for the grants themselves.

These broadband projects, said Boyd, “will be part of an ongoing progress.”  Hopefully, they will “inform the ongoing discussion” and “inform what is needed in terms of capacity,” she said.

Editor’s Note: Please see http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com for more information about the latest Broadband Breakfast Club series.

American Broadband Market Works, Economists Say

in Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2009 – Reports of the death of American broadband have been greatly exaggerated, said a group of economists Friday at a panel on broadband market competition sponsored by the Progress and Freedom Foundation.

Groups like Free Press who routinely cite international statistics to support a thesis of market failure in broadband are overly pessimistic, said  Thomas Hazlett, Director of Information Economy Project and professor of law at George Mason University. “We’re all falling behind…the decline is on and we’re all sinking into the abyss,” he said sarcastically. Whether or not the American market is truly a duopoly can be tested empirically, Hazlett suggested.

Emperis managing partner Jeffrey Eisenach called the U.S. rankings and duopoly claims “two big misconceptions with the state of the world.” Recent OECD rankings are “100 percent wrong,” he said. And charges of a duopoly fail because of differences between services offered to residences and business.

Regardless, because American broadband was deregulated just five years ago, “competition is driving innovation,” he said. Europe has very little fiber deployed in comparison to Verizon’s deployment of fiber to many American markets, he noted. And when one counts DSL, Cable, and 3G networks of both AT&T and Verizon Communications, 80 percent of Americans have “four pipes” to the home, he suggested.

But Information Technology and Innovative Foundation President Rob Atkinson said there is a difference between government “facilitation” of deregulation and actual deregulation on the broadband system. “I think we are behind, and I think it is a duopoly,” he said. But Americans are “lucky to have two pipes” compared with many countries, he said. Introducing a municipal third pipe would be “overbuilding [and] a huge waste of money.”

The FCC can expand broadband penetration by educating people “at the margins” on the benefits of broadband and using programs like the Universal Service Fund to get service to consumers “at reasonably low prices,” Atkinson said. But regulation of the broadband market would discourage innovation, Eisenach said. “regulations…don’t give enough credence to how capital markets work,” he said.  While 100 percent coverage “may be the right number for health care,” it’s not worth the investment for broadband, he said.

On Cyberbullying, Education and Enforcement Bills Compete for Congressional Action

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WASHINGTON, June 12, 2009 – Hill staffers and online safety said Friday that two bills currently before Congress take very different approaches to issues of cyberbullying and online.

Speaking at a panel sponsored by the Family Online Safety Institute, CEO Stephen Balkam said that the key question is whether or not it is possible to legislate internet safety. Over the past decade, multiple commissions of countless experts have determined that there is “no silver bullet” to protecting young people as they venture online.

Instead, the consensus of each succeeding study has been that a “combination of tools” is required, and that “education is key,” he said. A similar study in the United Kingdom reached many of the same conclusions, he said.

And while Balkam noted the panelists represented widely differing viewpoints on the best way to approach the problem, he would not minimize the seriousness of the issue: “None of us will deny challenges exist,” he said.

“Children and adults today have… come to rely on the Internet for everything,” said Mercedes Salem, legislative counsel for Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif. Sanchez is the sponsor of the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act, which would impose criminal penalties for severe harassment which Salem said “crosses a line” beyond normal schoolyard antics.

“We’re not dealing with face to face bullies anymore,” she said. Instead, what was once a shove on the school playground is now reaching home to after school hours, and to students’ mobile devices.

“There’s a big difference” when a bully can attack “any time of the day, anywhere.”

And while education is crucial to prevent such behavior from becoming status quo, Salem stressed the need for legislation to “punish people who cross the line” into criminal behavior. “This is not about hurt feelings,” she said, “but punishing criminal acts.”

Jason Tuber, a legislative assistant for Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., did not dispute the severity of cyberbullyin or the consequences of ignoring it. “Everyone can agree this is a serious problem,” he said.

But in answering Balkam’s original question on legislating safety, Tuber was blunt: “I think the answer is simply no.” But Congress can make it more likely that children are safe by providing resources for parents, educators, and other stakeholders, he said.

Sen. Menendez’s bill, the School and Family Education about the Internet Act, would provide for grants for educational programs and award them based on objective criteria, with the grants adjustable from year to year based on changing needs and technologies, Tuber said.

Progress and Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow Adam Thierer, who has served on prior task forces mentioned by Balkam, called the Menendez bill’s educational approach “infinitely constitutional” — a stark contrast to other child safety laws which have been struck down by courts on First Amendment grounds.

Enforcement and regulation-based laws don’t go anywhere but to court, Thierer said. Speaking of the decade-long battle over the Child Online Protection Act, which was overturned last year, he asked: “How did that make kids better off?”

Thierer would not rule out criminal sanctions, but only in cases of “really aggrieved online harassment,” which he took pains to differentiate from “kid on kid” conduct traditionally handled by schools.  And real “adult on kid” harassment – the sort that served as the impetus behind the Megan Meier Act, “may be a different story,” he said.

Salem defended her boss’ legislation as providing a new option for prosecutors, and not a knee-jerk reaction to a single incident. “We want to stop this behavior: We need new tools, new laws.” Schools may be well-equipped to deal with traditional bullying, she said, but they can’t address conduct that may be criminal.

At Monday's Deadline, Industry, Advocacy Groups Weigh In on FCC Broadband Plan

in Broadband Stimulus/FCC/National Broadband Plan/NTIA by

WASHINGTON, June 8, 2009 – Industry representatives and advocacy groups of all stripes flooded the Federal Communications Commission’s inbox Monday with a wide-ranging array of comments on the scope and direction of the agency’s role in crafting a national broadband plan.

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act passed in February charges the commission with providing a report to Congress on a national strategy by February 17, 2009. The deadline for interested parties to file comments with the commission was midnight on Monday.

Facilities-based competition, rather than regulation should factor heavily into the commission’s plans, Progress and Freedom Foundation President Ken Ferree and Senior Fellow Barbara Esbin wrote. Market forces and not regulation, should determine the level of openness and “network intermediary functionality” available on any network, they added.

“There is no evidence of broad market failure justifying regulatory intervention in the majority of broadband markets,” Ferree and Esbin said in a related statement. “Providers should have maximum flexibility to experiment with service offerings, rates, terms, and conditions to encourage competition.” The primary regulatory goal of the FCC should be to ensure Americans can access at least one broadband provider with “broadband capability,” they said –  especially in currently unserved areas.

Free State Foundation president Randolph May made a similar call for a light regulatory touch in a statement accompanying the organization’s comments. May cited Census Bureau statistics estimating private industry investment of $80 billion over the last year as evidence that the commission should not overreach and risk hurting the market. Broadband services are becoming both more affordable and more useful to consumers, May said: “Prices…have been declining, while speed has been steadily increasing.”

May dismissed outright the idea that municipalities should be able to operate their own broadband networks in the absence of private-sector investment. “These government entities do not have the expertise and experience required to build and operate modern broadband communications networks as efficiently and effectively as private sector companies,” he said.

Acting Chairman Michael Copps’ suggestion of adding a “fifth principle” to the commission’s Internet Policy Statement drew particular scorn from May, who called it “a return to old-fashioned common carrier regulation.”

But in a statement released Monday along with his organization’s comments, Free Press research director S. Derek Turner called for the commission to “chart a new direction for technology policy in this country.”

Commission policies should “promote robust broadband competition, guarantee strong net neutrality protections, and produce concrete data about the broadband market, he said.”

Turner stressed the need for a forward-looking policy: ‘”The [commission] must set a high bar for broadband,” he said. “Our digital future cannot rest on today’s slow, expensive standards.”  And any national plan must look beyond mere availability of service and focus on the value of broadband to consumers in the form of increased speed, Turner said.

Open Internet Coalition president Markham Erikson dismissed statements that the current broadband market is open or innovative as based in myth, not fact. “Most households,” said Erikson, “still do not have access to more than one truly high-speed solution.”

Assumptions that deregulation would result in more consumer choice “have not proven to be accurate, he said.” The commission should therefore promote policies to “affirmatively promote competition and innovation,” he said.

Industry groups and providers also made their views known in comments and statements. Comcast executive vice president David Cohen used a posting on the company’s blog to call for a massive consumer education campaign to encourage the 92 percent of Americans that Cohen says currently have access to services to make use of them. Efforts to build a government-subsidized network would be a “”counterproductive waste of money,” he wrote.

The commission’s “first priority” should be to increase deployment of broadband in underserved areas “so that every American has the opportunity to purchase services and equipment capable of providing high-speed Internet access”, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said in its comments.

While NCTA called the $7.25 billion in funding provided by the Recovery Act a good start, it stressed the need for the commission to focus the national plan on improving the “business case” for investing in those unserved areas. To that end, the group suggested the commission take up the task of reforming the Universal Service Fund’s high-cost program.

Reaching underserved populations and areas through education and outreach should be the next priority in any national strategy, the NCTA comments said. Among the ways the commission can increase adoption is with policies promoting innovative and advanced technologies, including telehealth and distance learning. The association suggested such “demand-side” programs should be a “key part” of the national strategy going forward.

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