CEI Comments to Montana Rural Broadband Subsidy Alternatives

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The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) respectfully submits these comments regarding the Montana Public Service Commission’s Notice of Investigation in the matter of “improving transparency, fostering accountability, and maintaining quality services for high cost support and lifeline services in Montana.[1] CEI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest organization dedicated to the principles of limited constitutional government and free enterprise.[2] We frequently participate in regulatory proceedings before agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding Internet regulation,[3] conduct litigation and file amicus briefs in regulatory cases,[4] and publish policy analyses addressing telecommunications policy topics, including universal service.[5]

In this proceeding, the Commission asks if there are “market-based alternatives, or technologies other than fiber-based broadband, that more effectively accomplish the goals of ETC Programs as stated in 47 U.S.C. § 254(b)?”[6] Market-based alternatives to subsidized services indeed exist and will likely continue to evolve in ways that fulfill Montanans’ broadband needs, mitigating or even obviating the need for government subsidies of eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs).[7]

Home broadband connections have traditionally piggybacked on existing wireline infrastructure, such as cable television systems or telephone lines. But as consumer demand for broadband Internet access has increased, a growing number of firms have begun to offer broadband access that does not require a wired connection to each subscriber’s household. Some of these providers offer last-mile access using terrestrial wireless towers, which may sit several miles from a typical subscriber’s home.[8] Other providers, such as Hughes Network Systems and Viasat, offer broadband connectivity using geostationary satellites that orbit the Earth at about 20,000 miles above sea level.[9]

Read the full comments here.

[1].   Investigation into Improving Transparency, Fostering Accountability, and Maintaining Quality Services for High Cost Support and Lifeline Services in Montana, Notice of Investigation and Opportunity for Comments, Docket No. N2017.10.82 (Nov. 9, 2017), available at http://psc.mt.gov/Docs/ElectronicDocuments/pdfFiles/

[2].   For more information about CEI, see https://cei.org/about-cei.

[3].   See, e.g., Comments of CEI, Restoring Internet Freedom, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 32 FCC Rcd 4434 (2017)  available at https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/10718307454684/CEI%20Comments%20-%20Restoring%20Internet%20Freedom.pdf.

[4].   See, e.g., Free Enter. Fund v. Pub. Co. Accounting Oversight Bd., 561 U.S. 477 (2010) (counsel for petitioners); State Nat. Bank of Big Spring v. Lew, 795 F.3d 48, 52 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (counsel for private appellants); Petition for a Writ of Mandamus, In re Competitive Enter. Inst., no. 17-1261 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 12, 2017) (counsel for petitioners).

[5].   See, e.g., Braden Cox & Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr., Communications Without Commissions: A National Plan for Reforming Telecom Regulation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, 2005 Issue Analysis No. 9 (2005), available at https://cei.org/pdf/4911.pdf.

[6].   NOI, supra note 1, at 3.

[7].   Federal regulations define the term “eligible telecommunications carrier” at 47 C.F.R. § 54.201.

[8].   See, e.g., Mike Dano, Editor’s Corner—The Economics of Fixed Wireless, From LTE to 5G, and What it Means for Verizon, FierceWireless (July 27, 2017, 9:00 AM), https://www.fiercewireless.com/5g/economics-fixed-wireless-from-lte-to-5g-and-what-it-means-for-verizon

[9].   See VantagePoint, Analysis of Satellite-Based Telecommunications and Broadband Services, at 3 (2013), available at https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/7520956711.pdf.