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K.C. Jones
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Group Urges Government To Increase Broadband Regulation

The Federal Communications Commission has ignored guidelines in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that call for broadband competition, openness, and access, according to a recent report from an advocacy group.

The Federal Communications Commission has ignored guidelines in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that call for broadband competition, openness, and access, according to a recent report from an advocacy group.Free Press said Monday that the FCC has "consistently favored short-term industry interests over the long-term goal of universal broadband."

"As a result, consumers have been left with higher prices, slower speeds and a broadband market with few choices," the group said in a statement issued three days before it plans to release a book on technology policy.

The book, "Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age," is due out Thursday. It includes the report that Free Press released this week.

The broadband policy report (PDF) recommends Congressional review of every major FCC decision since the Telecommunications Act was enacted and a reversal of decisions that did not promote competition, access, and openness. Free press wants regulators to develop data-related standards to ensure fair competition and prevent abuse of power.

The group has asked the FCC to expand and codify its Internet Policy Statement, which advocates network neutrality and competition. Free Press also wants broadband to be defined as a telecommunications service, which would put it under stricter rules regarding access and competition.

The report urges Congress to expand the Universal Service Fund to include broadband infrastructure. It calls for a review of policies governing competition, pricing, special access, the "middle mile" between cell phone towards and local area networks, and enterprise markets.

Free Press wants the federal government to assess whether broadband deployment is reaching all Americans. Finally, Free Press has requested that more public airwaves be freed for unlicensed use and spectrum be shared in urban and rural areas.

The group wants the FCC to implement the recommendations in a national broadband plan it is required to create by Feb. 17, 2010, under a mandate by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"The FCC predicted a future of broadband competition, and then regulated as if it were already here," S. Derek Turner, Free Press research director and author of the report, said. "While promising consumer benefits, it tore down consumer protections. Digital deregulation reduced the broadband revolution to broadband mediocrity."

Turner said it's time to change direction and turn away from the failed policies of the past.

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