Commentary

FCC: U.S. Broadband Deployment NOT 'Reasonable And Timely'

Report after report has shown that the state of broadband in the U.S. leaves much to be desired. Not only does adoption lag in the U.S., but connections are slower than in other countries and prices are higher.

Until now, however, the Federal Communications Commission has told Congress that Internet service providers are deploying broadband in a "reasonable and timely fashion."

But the FCC today said that ISPs are falling short. In a statement describing its latest report to Congress, the FCC said that between 14 million and 24 million Americans don't have access to high-speed lines.

"Taking account of the millions of Americans who, despite years of waiting, still have little prospect of getting broadband deployed to their homes, we must conclude that broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

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That conclusion seems obvious to reformers -- who have long said that the ISPs and the government aren't doing enough to ensure that all Americans have access to broadband -- but drew dissents from the two GOP commissioners. Robert McDowell issued a statement lamenting the FCC's "180 degree reversal" on the issue, while Meredith Baker declared that "broadband infrastructure deployment and investment are a remarkable and continuing success story."

The FCC also redefined broadband as 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, a significant revision from the previous standard of 200 kilobits per second downstream.

Baker took issue with that as well, saying the FCC "should not adopt the 4Mbps/1Mbps speed threshold as the definition of 'broadband' without conducting our own due diligence."

2 comments about "FCC: U.S. Broadband Deployment NOT 'Reasonable And Timely'".
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  1. Gabrielle Jackson from Conversis, July 21, 2010 at 5:13 a.m.

    And yet the US is ranked third in the world in the Economist Intelligence Unit's digital economy rankings. It actually jumped two places this year, from 5th to 3rd place. If the FCC is correct, and high speed broadband is not being deployed rapidly enough in the US, it will be interesting to watch these rankings over the next five years to see if the Asian countries - who have invested heavily in next generation information and communications technology - catch up and indeed overtake North America and Europe. See the EIU piece: http://www.eiu.com/site_info.asp?info_name=digitaleconomy_2010&page=noads&rf=0

  2. Susan Breidenbach from Broadbrook Associates, July 21, 2010 at 5:51 a.m.

    Economies of scale of broadband infrastructure deployment (or any utility infrastructure deployment) are directly related to population densities. When comparing U.S. broadband adoption rates to those of other countries, the issues of population density and economies of scale are ignored. It costs a lot more per person to deploy utility distribution infrastructures in relatively thinly populated countries like the U.S., than it does in countries with population densities four or five times higher. It would be interesting to see broadband deployment rankings that were adjusted for population densities.

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