In a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) released last Friday, the FCC sought comment on a potential change to the minimum broadband speed threshold under which communities are deemed to have “advanced telecommunications capability” for purposes of Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The NOI seeks “objective, empirical data and evidence” from “individual consumers, consumer advocates, analysts, companies, policy institutes, governmental entities, and others” that will be used to compile the FCC’s next annual report to Congress on the state of broadband deployment throughout the U.S. In its last two reports to Congress, the FCC determined that advanced telecommunications services were not being deployed to all Americans in a “reasonable and timely” fashion owing to various barriers that discourage investment in broadband infrastructure. Among the barriers identified by the FCC are (1) high costs for network deployment, (2) delays in building out networks and delivering service, (3) poor performance quality that prevents consumers from using applications and services of their choice, (4) lack of access to affordable broadband services and computer equipment, and (5) lack of digital literacy. To reflect more accurately available speed tiers in the broadband market, the FCC is proposing a change in the definition of “advanced telecommunications capability” from its current benchmark of 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream to either a lower threshold of 3 Mbps/768 Kbps or a higher standard of 6 Mbps/1.5 Mbps. In addition to asking whether a second, higher benchmark should be adopted “to begin tracking progress toward long-term national broadband goals,” the NOI also seeks input on whether “the benefits of potential revisions to the threshold outweigh the benefits of having a relatively static point at which to gauge . . . progress and growth in the market from one [annual] report to the next.” As FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski acknowledged that “more remains to be done” to address the nation’s broadband challenges, FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell—a dissenter against the agency’s conclusion for the past two years that broadband is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner—stressed that his support of the current NOI “should not be construed as an endorsement of any particular preference or conclusion in the previous two [Section] 706 reports.”