• United States

FCC turns its attention to home networks

Nov 04, 20023 mins

Assures HomePlug community it's committed to the goal of ubiquitous broadband

Assures HomePlug community it’s committed to the goal of ubiquitous broadband

In case there are lingering doubts as to the importance of broadband deployment to the emerging home network industry, consider the HomePlug Alliance’s choice of lead speaker at its recent member conference: FCC senior attorney, Julie Veach.

In her presentation, Veach, who works in the agency’s wireline competition bureau (which deals with DSL issues, not cable broadband), did all she could to assure the vendor and developer audience that the FCC was doing all it could to ease regulations on incumbent carriers to spur competition and industry growth.

Speaking for FCC Chairman Michael Powell, Veach said the FCC knows broadband will “increase in socio-economic importance in the future,” and that it’s “concerned that the U.S. will fall further behind [other countries] with the statutes it has in place.”

So far, so good. Fortunately, Veach provided some useful primer information, didn’t get bogged down in FCC-speak (such as cable modem NOI, triennial UNE review notice, NPRM, etc.), and provided easy-to-understand information and insight on the FCC’s doings. (To appreciate the value of this, explore the FCC’s Web site).

As background, Veach first explained that many of the existing regulations dating back to 1934 are founded on the idea that companies provided services in silos independent of each other, with only one wire coming into the house. A monopoly provider was also assumed, and the rules were designed for the narrowband world – conditions that no longer apply.

Next, she laid out the commission’s principles and policy goals to promote the widespread deployment of high-speed Internet access services:

  • To encourage the ubiquitous availability of broadband access to all Americans. Keep in mind, that’s not subscribership, she noted. Today, there are lots of suppliers in the DSL, cable and satellite markets. The FCC will actively promote competition, creating great incentive to innovate and drop prices. The agency’s job will be to make competition robust and fair.
  • To establish a minimal regulatory environment that promotes investment and innovation, and provide the least number of regulations that still promote investment.
  • Develop consistent regulations to the extent possible. The FCC “won’t tilt the market in one direction or the other,” she said.

How does the FCC plan to accomplish these goals? By initiating three wireline proceedings and one proceeding for cable/media bureau. For the former, the wireline bureau announced the proposed notice of rule making (NPRM) in February, which is meant to resolve outstanding issues regarding the classification of telephone-based broadband Internet services. Since, the bureau opened up the proceedings to pubic comments and has published more than 1,000 filings on the FCC Web site. Right now, the bureau is reviewing the comments, and expects to draft a recommendation that the five FCC commissioners and Powell will vote on, perhaps as early as this winter, according to an FCC official.

The thorny issue for the wireline bureau is whether the current regulation that forces incumbent carriers to share their existing infrastructure with competitive incumbent local exchange carriers (ILEC) is helping or hurting broadband deployment growth. When it comes to fiber to the home deployment, Veach said it’s definitely hurting.

“ILEC fiber to the home is lagging,” Veach said. “Existing laws and regulations that force ILECs to share their fiber networks depress the market and discourage them from building fiber networks.”