The FCC’s yearly report of broadband deployment keeps some crucial definitions in place that some feared would be changed or eliminated to ease the responsibilities of internet service providers. The threat of a lowered speed standard and the merging of mobile and fixed broadband services will not be carried out, it seems.
Broadband will continue to be defined as a connection with speeds of 25 megabits down and 3 megabits up. Another proposed definition of 10 down and 1 up was decried by critics as unrealistic for several reasons; not only is it insufficient for many ordinary internet applications, but it would let providers off the hook, because they would be counted as having deployed broadband if it met this lowered standard.
Fortunately, that isn’t the case, and the 25/3 standard remains in place.
The other worry was the potential decision to merge mobile with fixed broadband when measuring the quality of internet connections available to people throughout the country.
Had the two been merged, an area might have been considered well-served if it was, for example, in range of an LTE tower (giving decent mobile speeds) but only served by sub-1-megabit DSL. Since it was being considered that only one was required, that underserved area would be considered adequately connected.
But the FCC clearly saw the lack of logic in equating mobile connections and fixed broadband: they’re used, tracked, billed and deployed very differently.
From the fact sheet accompanying the draft report:
Both fixed and mobile services can enable access to information, entertainment, and employment options, but there are salient differences between the two. Beyond the most obvious distinction that mobile services permit user mobility, there are clear variations in consumer preferences and demands for fixed and mobile services.
Any analysis that only looked at the progress in deploying fixed broadband service or only looked at the progress in deploying mobile broadband service would be incomplete. Therefore, the draft report takes a holistic view of the market and examines whether we are both making progress in deploying fixed broadband service and making progress in deploying mobile broadband service.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel commended this decision but criticized others in a separate statement, saying “I’m glad that the FCC has backed away from its crazy idea to lower the broadband speed standard. But it defies logic to conclude that broadband is being reasonably and timely deployed across this country when over 24 million Americans still lack access.”
The fact sheet and Chairman Pai’s commentary also get a few hits in regarding the recent decision to roll back the 2015 net neutrality rules, but they aren’t very substantial.
(Commissioner Clyburn writes: “How can this agency now claim that broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion? Only by repeating the majority’s tired and debunked claims that broadband investment and innovation screeched to a halt in 2015.”)
Pai has, however, proposed a $500 million project to expand rural broadband, the details of which are still forthcoming; I’ve asked his office for more information on it.
The full draft report, when it becomes public, will no doubt contain more interesting information ripe for interpretation, and other commissioners may also weigh in on its successes and shortcomings. In the meantime, it’s reassuring that the main worries leading up to it have been addressed.