Broadband not being deployed in reasonable and timely fashion, civil rights coalition says

The Leadership Conference, the nation’s largest civil and human rights coalition, sent a letter to the FCC arguing that broadband is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion. The letter was sent in response to the FCC’s annual inquiry into the state of broadband deployment, as mandated by Section 706 of the Communications Act.

Specifically, the letter urged the Commission to do five things in the proceeding.

  • The Commission should consider advanced telecommunications capacity deployment in the 706 inquiry by looking to its practical purpose: its use by people in the United States.
     
  • The Commission should reaffirm its previous conclusion that advancedtelecommunications capacity means access to both fixed and mobile broadband service. These services are complementary, not substitutes for each other.
     
  • While fixed and mobile broadband have distinct differences, the Commission should retain its 25/3 Mbps speed definition and evaluate both services by this measure.
     
  • Even if the Commission considers “deployment” to refer only to infrastructure, evidence does not support reversal. At least six studies issued in the last year and a half find that many of the lowest income neighborhoods in the United States lack fiber-optic network access. Further 477 data analysis is needed, as well as improvements to increase its accuracy.
     
  • The Commission should not conclude that the current deployment of advanced telecommunications capability is “reasonable and timely,” and should take action to adopt subsidies, support tax policies and digital inclusion programs, and bolster robust broadband Lifeline service. Such actions will accelerate investment in broadband infrastructure, encourage broadband adoption, and close the digital divide.

“We encourage the Commission to take a broad, meaningful look at deployment as it relates to use and to investigate data that demonstrate low-income neighborhoods lack fiber infrastructure, the letter read. “We reiterate our concern that the Commission’s current proceeding will reconsider mobile service as a substitute for wireline service and thus lower the bar for broadband speed standards. These changes would deter network investments and cement the digital divide.”

Twelve US senators and the Communications Workers of America weighed in on the proceeding as well. “We believe that mobile broadband service cannot adequately support the same functions as does fixed service currently, and therefore, cannot be a substitute at this time,” the senators’ letter read. “A small business owner who wants to begin a new venture today would not be adequately supported by mobile only service. 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.”

 

Links:

The Leadership Conference letter to FCC on 706 proceeding (FCC, Nov. 3, 2017)

Broadband isn’t being deployed in fast enough, CWA tells FCC (Speed Matters, Sept. 11, 2017)