Commissioners Split Over Broadband Report Findings

Broadband internet service is being reasonably and quickly rolled out nationwide, the FCC says in its annual broadband report. However, much work remains to be done. That’s what the majority at the agency believe, while the minority sing a different tune.

“As of year-end 2016, 92.3 percent of all Americans have access to fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, up from 89.4 percent in 2014 and 81.2 percent in 2012. Nonetheless, over 24 million Americans still lack fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps,” states the Commission in the report.

Rural and Tribal areas continue to lag behind urban areas in mobile broadband deployment. Although evaluated urban areas saw an increase of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps mobile LTE from 81.9 percent in 2014 to 90.5 percent in 2016, such deployment in evaluated rural and Tribal areas remained flat at about 70 percent and 64 percent, respectively, according to the findings. Approximately 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans living on Tribal lands still lack mobile LTE broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps.  

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn called the findings “biased, flawed, and woefully incomplete.” She said they show, “a whopping 66.2 percent of Americans living in rural and Tribal areas—as compared to 2.1 percent of Americans living in urban areas—still lack access to fixed 25/3 broadband.” Clyburn also said the new report removed price as a factor in its analysis.

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly supports the report overall, but finds issue with the report’s treatment of wireless broadband, saying the report “minimizes the enormous value and market realities.” He believes the Commission should step up and realize consumers are treating wireless as a substitute for wireline service.  

Finally, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel scoffs at the notion that broadband is being rolled out in a reasonable and timely fashion, calling that conclusion “ridiculous” and “irresponsible.” Both she and Clyburn dissented with the adoption and the release of the February 2 report.

February 7, 2018                   

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