The U.S. Federal Communications Commission can take new steps to encourage broadband deployment, including an awards program for local governments that make it easy for providers to install infrastructure, an advisory committee to the agency said Monday.
The FCC should also press for a presidential order to allow broadband providers to install so-called micro cells and other equipment in federal government buildings and on federal lands, the FCC's Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) recommended.
The FCC can move ahead with most of the TAC's eight recommendations, focused on improving U.S. competitiveness and spurring job growth, using its existing authority, instead of making new rules, said Tom Wheeler, the TAC's chairman and a managing director at Core Capital Partners, a venture capital firm.
"Always when you're dealing with policy issues, there is the inherent tendency to say, 'Well, let's have a rule-making on this,' or, 'let's have an inquiry on this,'" Wheeler said during a press briefing. "What the TAC has been doing is saying, 'What is it that we can recommend that the commission can do now ... rather than have some long, drawn-out administrative proceeding?'"
The recommendations from the 45-member TAC -- most from private companies, including Google, AT&T, Dell and Apple -- address both wired and mobile broadband issues. The FCC should launch a Broadband City USA contest that highlights the best ways that local governments are encouraging broadband growth and making it easy for broadband providers to install new services, the TAC recommended.
In addition, the FCC should encourage the development of so-called small cell wireless transmitters, including femtocells, distributed antenna systems (DAS) and Wi-Fi networks, the group recommended. The FCC should bring together providers, vendors and other interested groups to discuss how to accelerate the deployment of small cell devices, the TAC recommended.
A series of new cell sites in cities can help ease congestion on mobile networks, Wheeler said.
The TAC also recommended that the FCC create a model website the local governments could use to coordinate the deployment of broadband with upgrades in utility services. When a local water utility is digging trenches for new water pipes, broadband providers should be able to lay their lines at the same time, for example.
The FCC should also look into shortening the deadline that local governments have to approve requests by broadband and wireless providers to co-locate on existing infrastructure, the TAC recommended.
The TAC will release more recommendations later this year, and it will continue to push for these recommendations, Wheeler said. "This is not a fire-and-forget exercise," he said. "We're going to keep churning the pot ourselves."
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.