Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the formation of a new federal advisory committee to explore ways to accelerate deployment of high-speed Internet access nationwide and to close the digital divide.
“Access to broadband is increasingly critical for all Americans, no matter who they are or where they live,” said Pai. “It’s becoming the 21st-century gateway to jobs, health care, education, information, and economic development everywhere, from the smallest town to the largest city. That makes it imperative for us to remove regulatory barriers to the deployment of high-speed Internet access.”
The action comes a little more than a week after Pai was appointed chairman and echoes remarks he made then, pledging to use his office to close “the digital divide … between those who can use cutting-edge communications services and those who do not.”
The committee will focus on developing specific recommendations on how the FCC can encourage broadband deployment across America. Issues the committee will tackle include further reforms to the FCC’s pole attachment rules; identifying unreasonable regulatory barriers to broadband deployment; ways to encourage local governments to adopt deployment-friendly policies; and other reforms within the scope of the commission’s authority.
In particular, the FCC said, one of the committee’s first tasks will be drafting a model code covering local franchising, zoning, permitting and rights-of-way regulations. Many localities may not currently have or be able to develop policies conducive to deployment. With a model code approved by the FCC, any city could build a better regulatory environment for deployment, and any provider would have a better case for installing infrastructure.
Nominees for the newly formed Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee will be drawn from a “diverse set of stakeholders” to address specific regulatory barriers to broadband deployment in both urban and rural areas, the commission said. Representatives of consumers and community groups, the communications industry, and federal, state, local and tribal officials are encouraged to apply, it added.