Appearing via satellite at the annual NXTcomm conference in Chicago, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin urged telecom leaders to provide the entire country with broadband access.
In an effort to promote investment in broadband infrastructure, the FCC has worked to deregulate both cable and DSL services, so that providers are no longer required to lease their lines to competitors.
"I think that our policies have been a success," Martin said, Ars Technica reports. "Most importantly, we're seeing broadband adoption across all demographics. It's critical that we make sure that everyone in the country can take advantage of the broadband revolution.”
After direct pressure from the FCC, AT&T is playing a particularly conspicuous part in this broadband-for-everyone push. In December, as a way of gaining FCC approval for its merger with BellSouth, AT&T agreed to offer 768Kbps DSL for only $10, and this low-speed service is now available to new customers. AT&T is required to offer the service for at least 30 months.
In his video speech, Martin also addressed the issue of "net neutrality," which would prevent broadband providers from blocking access to competitors' content. He said that the FCC must work "to ensure that consumers will be able to access all of the content on the Internet and attach their own devices to the network as long as they do not damage the network."
But he acknowledged that providers should have the power to make money from their broadband lines. Some net neutrality advocates seek to prevent providers from using “tiered service models,” where surfers pay different prices for different speeds and different types of content, but Martin isn’t one of them. “It's crucial to ensure that people are able to recoup some of the cost of their investments," he said. “[Providers] should have the flexibility to offer various tiers of service.”
As part of its merger with BellSouth, AT&T also pledged to maintain “a neutral network and neutral routing in its wire-line broadband Internet access service" for at least two years - or until Congress passes a net neutrality law. ®