FCC Democrats Criticize Broadband Report, Want Higher Standards

The Federal Communications Commission's two Democrats are criticizing the agency's plan to conclude that broadband is being deployed on a reasonable basis.

“By the FCC’s own admission, over 24 million Americans are still without high-speed broadband access where they live," FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn stated Thursday. "For years telecom companies and government officials have promised Americans that 'soon' they will have affordable, high-speed broadband. Yet millions continue to wait.”

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel added in a post on Twitter that "defies logic" for the FCC to conclude that deployment is reasonable and timely, given that 24 million people in the country lack broadband access.

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Their statements come in response to the circulation Thursday of a draft report about the state of broadband. The draft report also concludes that mobile service isn't a substitute for wireline service. The FCC is recommending retaining the current definition of wireline broadband of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

Rosenworcel said Friday that the agency's benchmark for broadband should be faster. "It's time for a higher standard, like 100 Mbps," she tweeted. "When we set audacious goals we can do big things. We need to do better than dream small if we want to lead the world."

Some watchdogs and tech companies also told the FCC its 25/3 Mbps standard was too low. The lobbying group Incompas, which counts Internet service providers as well as Silicon Valley companies as members, last year urged the agency to revise the standard to 1 Gigabit per second, in markets with at least three providers. And advocacy group Open Technology Institute said in a 2016 filing that broadband should be defined as speeds of at least 50 Mbps downstream.

Clyburn criticized the 25 Mbps standard last August, when the FCC first proposed retaining it. "We sell consumers short by proposing a speed benchmark that is way too low," she stated at the time. "The 25/3 Mbps standard we propose would not even allow for a single stream of 1080p video conferencing, much less 4K video conferencing. This does not even consider that multiple devices are likely utilizing a single fixed connection, or the multiple uses of a mobile device."

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