NCTA: Infrastructure Plans Must Include Zero Tolerance for Overbuilds

NCTA: The Internet & Television Association wants to make sure Congress and the Donald Trump Administration focus their broadband infrastructure efforts on where it is most needed and will take a tech-neutral approach to who gets the funding to provide that service.

That came in a blog post Tuesday in advance of a Senate Commerce Committee hearing March 1 on infrastructure—both concrete highways and info highways. NCTA did not mince words about subsidizing service where it already exists, saying Washington should have "a zero tolerance policy" for overbuilds.

NCTA also wanted to make the point that while bridges are crumbling and highways congested, broadband infrastructure, thanks in large part to a quarter trillion dollars of private capital investment, told a different story.

NCTA acknowledged that all Americans don't yet have access to advanced broadband but did point out they were available to over nine of 10.

So, given that the challenge is not starting from a blank slate or a crumbling bridge, NCTA says the government needs focus on those without service.

It even has a blueprint for how that infrastructure challenge might be approached, based on the following principles.

1) Identify problem areas before spending money to fix them; 2) deliver broadband to those who don’t have it; 3) provide equal opportunities for all qualified broadband providers; 4) embrace alternative technologies in remote areas; and 5) ensure transparency and accountability to ensure government funds achieve intended results.

NCTA says the 2009 Obama stimulus program handed out billions before completing its broadband mapping project. That was a cart-before-the-horse approach that NCTA says "resulted in wasteful spending in many areas that already had broadband." It wants the policymakers to measure at least once before spending, that measurement being a map of where broadband is already available and where government funding is already committed.

As to overbuilding existing service, NCTA says "subsidies spent in areas that are already have broadband are wasteful because they deprive those with no service needed support and harm competitors not relying on government subsidies." NCTA wants a zero tolerance policy for overbuilds across all federal subsidies.

It also warns against redefining served households as unserved to skirt the overbuild issue, instead saying everyone should get first helpings of broadband before anyone gets seconds. 

NCTA also says where subsidies are provided, there should be mandatory competitive bidding rather than giving incumbent phone companies preferential access.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.