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FCC Pressed On Improving Broadband Access

The Telecommunications Industry Association and other groups are asking for the government to act fast and rule fairly in extending faster Internet service.

The Telecommunications Industry Association on Friday presented its list of recommendations to the FCC for creating a strong National Broadband Plan.

Danielle Coffey, TIA's VP for government affairs, outlined the trade association's recommendations during a virtual press conference and ticked off key principles.

"The broadband ecosystem is wonderfully -- and confoundingly –complex, marked by diverse overlapping networks with different capabilities, serving wildly different users with broadly ranging demands that are themselves in constant flux," Coffey said. "The [FCC's] plan must concern itself with ensuring a robust broadband ecosystem across all fronts."

Like the other presenters at a virtual press conference Friday, Coffey found the U.S. broadband landscape to be a great asset for businesses and consumers. Moreover, the plan to be formulated by the FCC presents the country's broadband providers with an opportunity to extend the service to a wide range of Americans.

Suggesting that the FCC work on promoting a broadband public-safety network "capable of protecting all communities in the event of further domestic disasters," Coffey cited the so-called "D block" of spectrum that could be used for public safety. The D block drew no serious bids in last year's 700-MHz spectrum auction and lies unused as the country continues to beef up its public-safety networks.

Coffey also urged the FCC to support the "international harmonization" of spectrum in a way that would ensure fair market access for U.S. companies "by promoting full, fair, and open trade and competition in international markets."

Another speaker, the National Association of Manufacturers' Marc-Anthony Signorino, suggested that all three speakers were seeking the same broad approach to a national broadband policy. "We're all saying the same thing -- more investment, less regulation," he said. Signorino is the association's director of technology policy.

Jason Goldman, counsel for telecommunications and e-commerce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, noted that while new broadband advances are important, he said it's "vital" that the United States use the broadband resources it already has. He singled out health care as a prime area in which existing and future broadband could be exploited.

Noting that broadband supply questions are as complex as broadband demand questions, Coffey cited the situation in which some areas of the United States have high broadband demand but no access, while other areas with access can't serve consumers who don't have computers. "In short," she said, "efforts to track and promote the use of affordable, high-quality broadband must account for the heterogeneity of the American broadband experience."

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