has emerged. The combination of technological and associated business changes generates considerable uncertainty and questions about what regulatory or other approaches are suited to meeting desired goals in light of this uncertainty.

Broadband has been targeted by traditional political players in the various policy arenas, and it has catalyzed the formation of new political alliances. It is subject to past policy developed in part for other telecommunications technologies and is the focus of a number of efforts to shape new telecommunications policy. The previous chapter explained how the characteristics of the different technology options are just a piece of the broadband puzzle. Because the profitability and growth prospects of different kinds of entities are affected by government decisions about what kind of entity can provide what kind of service, and when and where and how it can do so, the policy context has a significant impact—there are no pure investment decisions, and political activity aimed at shaping the context is rampant. While many speak of a desire to deregulate, the nature and terms of regulation have become part of the competitive process. Moreover, there is something fundamentally highly political in the nature of communications technologies and services, beginning with the importance of communications media in the political process itself.1 The recent introduction of a number of pieces of legislation aimed at promoting broadband is another indicator of heightened interest and sometimes intense politicization. Proposed measures include tax credits, grants, subsidized loans, and other financial incentives for deployment in underserved or rural areas; support for research on broadband technologies for rural areas; grants for community planning efforts; changes in the regulation of incumbent local exchange carriers; and changes in universal service fund rules.2

Viewed through the lens of telecommunications policy, broadband involves a system with players and rules at federal, state, and local levels and a long history of political activity that features industry associations old and new, consumer- and issue-advocacy organizations (and consider-

1  

For example, the original schemes for allocating radio and television licenses had a political connection, with licenses allocated geographically.

2  

Bills that would provide financial incentives include H.R. 267, Broadband Internet Access Act of 2001; H.R. 1415, Technology Bond Initiative; H.R. 1416, Broadband Expansion Grant Initiative; H.R. 1697, Broadband Competition and Incentives Act; H.R. 2139, Rural America Broadband Deployment Act; H.R. 2401, Rural America Digital Accessibility Act; H.R. 2597, Broadband Deployment and Telework Incentive Act; H.R. 2669, Rural Telecommunications Enhancement Act; S. 88, Broadband Internet Access Act; S. 150 Broadband Deployment Act; S. 426, Technology Bond Initiative; S. 428, Broadband Expansion Grant



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