FCC Launches Annual Broadband Progress Inquiry

WASHINGTON: Regulators once again are setting out to see who does and doesn’t have broadband. The Federal Communications Commission today issued a Notice of Inquiry for its annual broadband progress report.

“In conducting this inquiry, the commission must ‘determine whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion,’” the NOI states.

The verdict of the last two--not so good. In the last progress report, the commission found 26 million Americans living in areas not served by broadband, and many lived in areas “where there is no business case to offer broadband.” As a result, the commission adopted Net Neutrality regulations, streamlined pole-attachment rules and made facilities-based mobile data providers do roaming agreements with one another.

Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell, an opponent of network neutrality rules, said the conclusions were “inaccurate and unsettling.”

“For instance, in just six years, broadband deployment skyrocketed from reaching only 15 percent of Americans in 2003, to 95 percent by the end of 2009,” he wrote in his statement. “Furthermore, I have repeatedly warned that such conclusions could be used to support a regulatory agenda with unintended and harmful effects. Unfortunately, my fears were realized because within five months of the 2010 706 report, the commission’s 3-2 vote to regulate Internet network management extensively relied on the findings in the 2010 706 report.”

The threshold for what constitutes broadband service is download speeds of at least 4 Mbps and uploads of at least 1 Mbps. The commission previously found that on average, unserved citizens most likely to be poor white people living in rural areas.

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