Leading industry analyst calls for universal broadband and free government cell phones for everyone who needs them
Mark Lowenstein is a leading industry analyst, consultant, and commentator. In his spare time, he’s managing director of Mobile Ecosystem. And he has some very strong thoughts about what the issues facing the Federal Communications Commission. Some of those thoughts directly impact the direction of the Lifeline free government cell phone program.
Here’s how FierceWireless.com explains it all:
When the Biden administration takes over in January 2021, the FCC will sport a new chairman and a 3-2 Democratic majority. In this column, I’d like to offer my views on what I think the FCC’s top priorities should be and what might be some strategies for fulfilling some of these objectives.
… I think the new FCC should, and will, prioritize on universal broadband. The urgency of this issue has been made abundantly clear by the Covid pandemic. It’s also the closest we might get to an objective that could actually have a healthy level of bipartisan support. So, it could be a good ‘early win’ for a new Biden administration. Tens of billions have been spent on this cause since the now 10-year-old Obama-era National Broadband Plan was released. Success has been middling – a combination of erroneous data, poor oversight/execution, and technology that was not quite there yet. But there are many more tools in the toolbox now, including mobile/FWA legitimately in the conversation for some locations and use cases. And the dollars should be there. To start, Biden’s FCC will inherit a $10 billion allocation from the increasingly likely new Stimulus plan. Some proceeds from the gazillions that are going to be raised in the C-band auction could also go a long way toward helping fund some of these initiatives.
… Another issue I’d like the FCC to tackle is affordability. Let’s agree that every individual should have a phone (most likely a cell phone), and every household a broadband connection. This combination is still a tough nugget for anyone with an income below the middle class to afford, and Covid is likely to put many millions more into this unfortunate category in the coming months. Chairman Pai was directionally correct in calling out historic programs such Lifeline for fraud and waste. But he went too far in nearly gutting some of these programs. The FCC needs to come up with a modernized approach to this, with more effective oversight. Broadband availability, universal service, and affordability are all part of the same package of needs. One way to “sell” this effectively is to categorize universal, affordable broadband as a key piece of a national infrastructure plan, which could be among the lowest pieces of potential bipartisan fruit in a still-divided Congress.
Where have you been all our lives, Mr. Lowenstein? Your thoughts excite us. Your commentary makes us all gooey. Your words make us tremble.
Perhaps a cold shower is in order.