Berkman Broadband Study Stresses Open Access

HLS Professor Yochai Benkler

Credit: Phil Farnsworth HLS Professor Yochai Benkler says of Genachowski: “This is a case of a very talented and well-intentioned man bumping up against an impossible political economy. There are hundreds of billions of dollars at stake in the core questions he’s interested in working on.”

In 2009, HLS Professor Yochai Benkler ’94 and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society were commissioned by the FCC to do a study on broadband deployment throughout the world. Among its key findings was that a series of regulatory policies called open access regulation have contributed to superior broadband penetration, capacity and affordability in other countries.

They wrote in their report: “Open access policies seek to make it easier for new competitors to enter and compete in broadband markets by requiring existing carriers to lease access to their networks to their competitors, mostly at regulated rates.”

The FCC did not incorporate the report’s findings into the National Broadband Plan released in March. Nevertheless, in a New York Times op-ed, Benkler praised aspects of the FCC plan: “[I]t takes many admirable steps—including very important efforts toward opening space in the broadcast spectrum,” he wrote, but the plan, he continued, “does not address the source of the access problem: without a major policy shift to increase competition, broadband service in the United States will continue to lag far behind the rest of the developed world.”