Commentary

Cable Lobby Wants FCC To Revise Definition Of 'Broadband'

Two years ago, the Federal Communications Commission defined broadband as speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream -- a significant bump from the prior definition of 4 Mbps.

At the time, the cable and telecom industry objected to the new standard, calling it arbitrary.

Now that the FCC is led by Republicans, the industry obviously hopes the agency will reinterpret broadband. The lobbying group NCTA - Internet & Television Association says in a regulatory filing that it recently pressed its case to the FCC.

"We urged the Commission to state clearly in the next report ... that the previously adopted benchmark of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps is not the only valid or economically significant measure of broadband service," the NCTA writes in a letter describing a meeting with the agency.

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The definition of broadband can be significant, because it will affect the FCC's conclusion about whether carriers are deploying broadband quickly enough. In recent years, the FCC has said that carriers are not doing so.

In its 2016 report, the FCC noted that 34 million Americans overall lack access to wireline broadband at speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream, while 39% of people living in rural areas lack access to broadband at that speed.

Current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said at the time that he agreed with his colleagues that broadband wasn't being deployed adequately. "This Administration’s policies have failed to deliver 'advanced telecommunications capability' -- broadband -- to the American people in a reasonable and timely fashion," he stated. "The standard set forth by Congress is not being met. Rural America is being left behind."

Not surprisingly, the NCTA doesn't agree with that conclusion either. The organization says the upcoming broadband report "presents an opportunity for the Commission to recognize that competition in the broadband marketplace is robust and rapidly evolving in most areas, while at the same time identifying opportunities to close the digital divide in unserved rural areas."

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