I have pulled part of this for the moment. Someone I've known to be reliable for years tells me there are important things I am missing. I was working from NTIA/DOJ filings and other normally reliable sources, but this is someone usually very well informed. Apologies. If you are someone active in policy, email me and I'll send you the current draft. Some things I have confirmed include:
- More spectrum. "Doubling available spectrum is practical and top of agenda for Obama's tech people." I wrote back in December, 2008. http://bit.ly/1aohhP That wasn't because of any inside leak. Kevin Werbach and Susan Crawford of the transition team had been writing on the subject for years. Many of the suggestions in that article have been echoed in D.C. lately, but I don't know which of the many choices will make it into the final plan.
- Some of that spectrum might be reserved for new entrants. Mexico, Canada, and France are doing this, but it's not been part of U.S. policy. Both DOJ and NTIA mentioned the idea. If that's included, it may or may not be sufficient for new competition to thrive. As it is, Sprint and T-Mobile have enough spectrum but they are falling far behind AT&T & Verizon. NTIA notes “A key question looking forward is whether emerging 'fourth generation' (4G) wireless services will have price and performance characteristics that might make them a viable alternative to wireline services for a significant number of customers.16 Although early projections from industry are encouraging, it is premature to predict when, or even whether, these wireless broadband services will provide the competitive alternatives that can benefit consumers of all services, including wireline. … It remains to be seen, for example, whether WiMax and Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology services will be offered at prices and on terms (e.g., speed and quality) that make them attractive to wireline users” The experts in my broadband delphi are more certain, predicting that in 2015 wireless will substitute for between 5% and 25% of wired broadband connections. The speed/capacity limits of wireless mean it's only a partial substitute, but how partial is a very tough call.
- Better information for consumers, which in principle can significantly improve the way any market works. This actually can be very helpful, although the details have to be constantly watched. In particular, the usual terms of service of "up to" and "might" need to be replaced with "the measured average is" and "will, no more than xxx hours/month on average. Incidentally, better information and eliminating false advertising was a theme of Kevin Martin's since 2003 and the lack of disclosure was part of the reason he disallowed Comcast's throttling. There's much more to do, however.
- Lifeline extended to broadband,
which has long been supported by Jonathan Adelstein, Michael Copps, Congressman Rick Boucher, and many others. Given the history of USF, it's important to look at whether the money goes to helping the poor or the company's profit margins.I worked on how to do this in Save Half on Broadband Subsidies: Don't Pay Retail for a Million Lines http://bit.ly/7LDPcs
- A focus on the remaining 3-6% who can only get satellite, a crucial group whose characteristics have been little known until the plan research. While many think the key problem for the "unserved" is high cost, my research shows that 1/3rd to 2/3rd of the unserved are not high cost access. Charter's bankruptcy alone affects about 10%. Monopoly local backhaul pricing is another factor. I believe a plan should be explicit. We will build xxx towers (with backhaul) in territories yyy to reach zzz unserved customers. XXX homes that can reach cable TV but not data will be upgraded to DOCSIS 3.0 both upstream and downstream. Then how to make that so would be clearly spelled out. AT&T doesn't plan network deployments by saying, for example, department so-and-so will take the lead. They include maps and other specifics.
- Detailed analysis of communities (disabled, native Americans, the illiterate) that don't use broadband and high-minded goals for helping them.
- Many, many changes to USF and ICC, details not yet public. Blair at SUPERCOMM said "USF is unsustainable."
- Acceptance that 1% or so are very, very expensive to serve ($3,000 to $30,000) and maybe best reached by satellite. Fortunately, satellite speeds are going up to 5 and 10 megabits in 2011-2013. Effective latency is coming down. They haven't changed physics, but they are improving the routers on the birds and have some software tricks that make a difference.