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Broadband Bringing Home the Bits
locales will not see facilities-based competition, and competition in some areas will change; both situations present policy challenges. Where unbundling is warranted, particularly with respect to new facilities, logical layer unbundling—unbundling at a higher service-level of communication, as in cable open access—should be preferred in the long run to physical unbundling because it promises technical advantages and administrative ease.
Take active steps to promote deployment and facilities-based competition, including at the local level. The degree of competition and prevalence of technology options will vary by region, state, and municipality. Federal rules should continue to bound the range of outcomes, but in many cases, local decision making based on local conditions and needs is appropriate. Various sorts of incentives and local arrangements, detailed in this report, can encourage broadband deployment. While a few communities have already undertaken broadband initiatives, the majority have not and could benefit from efforts to enhance local capacity. The committee recommends supporting planning grants for localities to explore options; providing cost-sharing for field trials, including local-government-sponsored initiatives; and establishing a national clearinghouse to raise awareness, provide technical assistance, and disseminate best practices for local and regional efforts to accelerate broadband deployment.
Support research and experimentation. Government should support research and experimentation that would foster the emergence of new competitors; increase understanding of economic, social, and regulatory factors; and spur the development of new content and applications that would make broadband more compelling and useful and foster growth in demand and use. Many of the conditions evident today reflect current technologies, business models, and policy intervention—all of which are subject to change. Research is valuable for creating new options and lowering costs, and it should be pursued vigorously across both technical and nontechnical arenas.