Big Year, Bigger Future for Broadband, Internet and Streaming Industry
By Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS
The 40-year story of INCOMPAS is the story of competition, innovation and success.
For over a hundred years we were stuck in the era of telephone monopoly and tethered to the past. But with the launch of our association, new innovators brought new competition. And that competition transformed our world. Their passion took us from long distance calls to the internet in your pocket.
INCOMPAS has always been different than other trade associations. We are mission driven, united by our fight for more competition and the belief that the future belongs to new ideas and new voices hailing from every community across our proud nation. Our story is the story of great women and great men who saw the world differently. Builders. Creators. Connectors. Streamers and Dreamers.
At our INCOMPAS Show last Fall we took the time to honor their stories in this moving and motivational video featuring five FCC chairs like Ajit Pai and Tom Wheeler, former U.S. Senator Trent Lott and Senator Ed Markey, and CEOs who brought innovations like fiber, ethernet, the cloud and streaming into our lives. To understand the history of the competitive industry, and to learn about our motivation for a better, faster more affordable broadband future, be sure to check it out.
It’s no surprise that in the same year we celebrated our founding, INCOMPAS was at the table, winning the fights that will define the next generation of broadband, internet and streaming, successfully advocating for new networks, faster speeds, lower prices and more competition for every American consumer and every American business. Here is a brief overview of some of our wins in 2021:
Bipartisan Infrastructure Act
The pandemic woke up the world to the critical importance of faster, better internet connectivity. And INCOMPAS led the bipartisan effort to make “internet for all” a priority for our nation, with the launch of our BroadLand Campaign with former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. The result was watching the trio of Senators Michael Bennett, Angus King and Rob Portman at the White House signing the bipartisan Infrastructure Act into law.
Combined with other COVID relief measures, America is ready to invest nearly $100 billion into new broadband networks and services of the future. Done right, with adherence to competition laws and the Infrastructure Act’s high-speed and 5G-ready priority language, our nation could connect every community and add bandwidth necessary for the jobs of tomorrow and bring competition for internet service, too.
Gigabit Speed Guidance from Treasury Department
Tomorrow is all about speed. Other nations including China, Great Britain and the EU all have set gigabit speed or fiber goals, while the U.S. is stuck with a sluggish 25/3 Mbps standard which simply will not support remote work, school and healthcare needs for families.
Look, the FCC is going to need to boost speeds, but INCOMPAS was thrilled to have helped convince the Treasury Department to move the goal to connect communities to 100 symmetrical speed networks that are scalable over time, and to include a preference for fiber deployment where it is technically and geographically possible. With Treasury’s latest Final Rule, one key change includes funding new, fast networks to be built in places that have slower than 100/20 Mbps speeds. This will help states and local communities help more people and attract more investment. We need all government agencies and programs to mirror this pro competition thinking to ensure taxpayer investment is efficient and effective and can support high-speed fixed and 5G mobile networks.
Availability of robust spectrum capacity is critical to a 5G future. As the FCC works to free up more spectrum resources to accelerate the next generation of wireless deployment, INCOMPAS is engaged in an effort that presents the Commission with a unique opportunity to immediately bring 500 megahertz of unencumbered mid-band spectrum to the 5G market. INCOMPAS has joined and co-chairs the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition that has presented technical and economic analysis from current license holders demonstrating that the 12 GHz band can be used for 5G while still allowing for coexistence among the incumbent users of the band. Modifying the current licenses to deliver two-way, terrestrial 5G service would double the spectrum available to providers for this game-changing service which will ensure that the United States is the global leader in 5G.
Everyone in America needs connectivity and competition. That’s not only our goal, it’s also the law. This is why after years of advocacy, INCOMPAS cheered as the White House announced its competition initiative with a focus on ending monopoly roadblocks in apartment buildings, condo complexes and other multiple tenant environments where new competition is locked out. It may sound like a niche issue, but over 30 percent of Americans live in MTEs and ending broadband monopolies in buildings has the bipartisan support of President Biden and former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai who championed the idea and initiated an agency proceeding.
Infrastructure and policy changes that enforce competition laws are critical, but so are ensuring affordability and adoption measures. That is why saving the Universal Service Fund — which ensures broadband connectivity, to schools, rural healthcare facilities, and low-income families — is so important.
Last year INCOMPAS was proud to join with NTCA — the Rural Broadband Association, SHLB -the Schools Health and Libraries Broadband Association and consumer advocate Public Knowledge to put USF reform on the table. Our USForward report details how to save the program and we helped to enlist over 250 public interest groups who support meaningful change.
State and Local: Streaming Success
But Washington, DC was not the only place INCOMPAS was active. Our association is fast becoming the leading tech and streaming association in the states. In both Maine and Missouri, INCOMPAS successfully led efforts to defeat duplicative taxes and fees that hurt streaming growth and broadband deployment. Consumers love streaming services because they bring more choice, entertainment and lower priced alternatives to families. Innovations that drive bandwidth demand and the need for building new networks. It’s a virtuous wheel of innovation that INCOMPAS we will fight to keep rolling forward.
As INCOMPAS launches into 2022, it’s fair to say we have the wind at our backs, the future in our sights and a strong focus on what we do best: being first. In the marketplace, our competitors are first to move, first to adapt and first to innovate. INCOMPAS reflects and represents that competitive culture in our policy and advocacy work.
FIRST: When the pandemic hit, INCOMPAS and its members were the first to step up and take the “Keep Americans Connected Pledge,” that kept Americans working, learning and connected to each other during COVID.
FIRST: INCOMPAS was the first to fight for competitive interconnection policies that unleashed the streaming revolution we are seeing today.
FIRST: INCOMPAS was first to lead on dig once, one-touch-make-ready policies which speed broadband deployment to local communities.
FIRST: We were first to endorse the BRIDGE Act which was the foundation for the bipartisan agreement to build future proof broadband networks in Infrastructure law.
FIRST: INCOMPAS was first to endorse DISH’s entry into the wireless industry to maintain four, nationwide competitors in the wireless market and deploy a new, cloud-based 5G network to market.
So bring on 2022. We are excited to welcome our new board chair, Mike Galvin from Granite Telecommunications, whose company revolutionized the business marketplace through competition and better customer service. With our smart, hard-working INCOMPAS staff, we are ready for the next adventure.
First up, on February 8, we will be hosting top policymakers and industry leaders where we will discuss the agenda for the future at the annual INCOMPAS Policy Summit in Washington, DC and online. Be sure to sign-up to participate.
At INCOMPAS, we are proud to represent leaders and innovators. We always celebrate our history by looking to the future, and that future has never been brighter.
Chip Pickering is the CEO of INCOMPAS and a former Member of Congress from Mississippi. Follow him on Twitter @ChipPickering