Mobile Broadband Isn't Equivalent To Fixed Service, Senate Democrats Tell FCC

Mobile broadband is no substitute for wireline service, a group of Democratic lawmakers say in recent comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission.

"While we recognize and welcome the possibility that technology may one day evolve to a point where mobile broadband options could be deemed equivalent to fixed broadband services, that is not the case today," Senators Al Franken (D-Minnesota), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and 11 others write.

They add that a decision to consider mobile broadband an acceptable substitute for wireline service would mark a "striking change in policy" that would particularly hurt people in rural and low-income areas.

"Should the decision to change current policy be made with the technology currently available, it would signal a strong departure from the Commission's mission, while also implying that certain consumers must accept lower quality connectivity."

The lawmakers' comments come in response to an FCC notice soliciting public opinion for an upcoming report about the state of broadband deployment. In its notice, the FCC said it it may -- for the first time -- set benchmarks for mobile broadband service. The agency proposed defining mobile broadband as service at speeds of at least 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. Wireline broadband, by contrast, is currently defined as speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

Among other questions, the FCC sought comments on whether it should evaluate fixed and mobile broadband "as separate and distinct ways to achieve advanced telecommunications capability."

The lawmakers also asked the FCC to extend a September 7 deadline to submit initial comments and September 22 deadline for replies. The agency said this week that it would push both deadlines back two weeks to September 21 for initial comments and October 6 for reply comments.

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