Parties responding to an FCC notice of inquiry (NOI) took issue with the agency’s recent determination that broadband and other advanced services are not being deployed in a “reasonable and timely” fashion as they questioned the data used by the FCC in its analysis. Parties also challenged the benchmark speed of 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream that the FCC contends is the minimum standard for online services to be deemed as advanced. Issued in July, the FCC’s sixth annual report to Congress under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act is the first in which the agency concluded that U.S. providers have failed to meet the threshold of “reasonable and timely” deployment of broadband services. The NOI on which comments were filed this week requests input on issues that pertain to the FCC’s next Section 706 report.
Criticizing the FCC’s findings, the U.S. Telecom Association (USTA) asserted that broadband is not only “being deployed to Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion” but is “being deployed at a rate that far exceeds the ‘reasonable and timely’ standard.” While asking the FCC to consider planned infrastructure projects that will use broadband stimulus funds awarded through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, USTA argued that “the lack of broadband availability in unserved areas does not warrant a negative Section 706 finding.” Wireless association CTIA, meanwhile, found fault with the FCC’s speed benchmark, which CTIA said fails to account for “consumers’ increasing reliance on mobile broadband and fundamentally ignores the enormous benefits of mobility and ubiquitous service.” As CTIA cautioned that “continuing to consider only speed will hinder the deployment and adoption of the most effective technology for reaching the unserved,” the Telecommunications Industry Association noted that the FCC’s benchmark “does not account for broadband Internet access offered at lower speeds” that are “still recognized as broadband.” Advising the FCC to “consider the most current information available . . . rather than relying on out-of-date Form 477 data,” the National Cable & Telecommunications Association pleaded with the FCC “not to repeat the errors made in the sixth 706 report.”