FCC Commissioner Urges National Broadband Policy with Municipal Wi-Fi

A national broadband strategy should permit, and not prohibit, municipalities from offering high-speed Internet services, said Jonathan Adelstein.

WASHINGTON, May 29 – A national broadband strategy should permit, and not prohibit, municipalities from offering high-speed Internet services, Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said Thursday at summit on community wireless networks.

Adelstein said that broadband should be so much more available that communities wouldn’t find the need to build their own broadband network, speaking at the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks here.

But when local elected officials do take matters of broadband access into their own hands, they shouldn’t be barred from doing so, said Adelstein. Speaking of some recent setbacks in wireless projects in Philadelphia and San Francisco, he said: “To draw from those the conclusions that we should give up and allow states to ban these would be a huge mistake.”

At the same time, Adelstein said that “it is a shame that communities need to take that up. If we had a national broadband policy, there would be a way of making sure that every community had access” to the high-speed Internet.

In fact, Adelstein said that other countries surpassing the United States in global broadband availability had done so by relying, in part, on municipal wireless networks.

Adelstein said that he hoped that a national broadband policy would be ratified by the FCC “sooner rather than later.”

With regard to Net Neutrality, or the requirement that carriers not be allowed to discriminate among the origin or destination of Internet traffic, Adelstein said that the FCC needed a firmer policy on the subject.

The FCC has been investigating Comcast for alleged violations of the agency’s August 2005 “policy statement” on Net Neutrality. But the cable industry has replied that the policy is not enforcable.  To that, Adelstein said, “If it is not enforceable, we have to make it a rule, and make it enforcable.”

Adelstein also linked the struggle to enact laws promoting Net Neutrality with anti-media-concentration policies.

The decade of the 1990s witnessed the founding of many media conglomerates, he said. Adelstein said he and his allies prevented the passage of policies that would have enabled even greater concentration. Although there was a natural struggle for influence among corporate entities at a regulatory agency like the FCC, he said that the American spirit calls for an open, decentralized, localized, and neutral media.

Adelstein also suggested that participation in elections could increase if the United States adopted a national broadband policy.

He also reminded the audience of how a national broadband policy, if implemented, might help to reverse America’s stagnant position among global competitors.

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