FCC seeks comments on how to approach next ‘Broadband Progress Report’

The FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry Aug. 5 seeking input from the public, consumer advocates, analysts, policy institutes and other government entities for its annual broadband progress report on deployment of advanced telecommunications capability.

As directed by the Telecommunications Act of 1976, the FCC must determine in the report whether or not these capabilities are being deployed in “a reasonable and timely fashion.” To do so, previous “Broadband Progress Reports” have relied on various thresholds of broadband speed as a benchmark against which to measure progress. For instance, in 1999, the FCC set the bar at 200kb/s for upload and download speed as the threshold in its first report. For the past couple of years, the commission has set the bar at 4Mb/s for downloads and 1Mb/s uploads over a broadband network.

The agency is seeking input on whether conditions have changed enough to justify revising the existing thresholds, and whether there is more benefit in changing the benchmark or having “a relatively static point” to measure progress. The commission also is seeking input on how it should go about changing the threshold if it should be adjusted and whether there are other issues to be considered in setting a speed benchmark.

The inquiry also asks for comment on how to improve the way the FCC assesses broadband deployment. For the 2011 report, the commission relied on data collected by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration from the State Broadband Data and Development Grant Program to build the National Broadband Map. It also relied on subscribership data collected in its Form 477.

The commission wants to know if there are ways to improve its analysis of SBDD Data to makes its assessment of current broadband deployment more accurate and whether there are other concerns regarding the data. The agency also wants comment on whether it should include data on mobile wireless broadband deployment in its assessment and whether it should use other data, like that from American Roamer, to analyze mobile wireless broadband deployment.

The inquiry is seeking comment on whether to continue to use Form 477 Data in its broadband deployment assessment, and if so, how it should be used. The commission wants to know what assumptions it should make regarding the relationship between subscribership in an area and how widely broadband is deployed in that area.

The commission also wants commenters to address its use of census data to draw inferences about deployment among various demographic groups, such as students, minorities, those with disabilities and people living on Tribal lands.

In addition, the inquiry asks for comments on whether broadband is being deployed “in a reasonable and timely fashion.” The commission wants input on what measures to use to assess what is reasonable and timely.

The FCC has set Sept. 6 as the due date for comments in the inquiry and Oct. 4 as the deadline for reply comments.

Phil Kurz

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.