State Petitions FCC to Reconsider Rural Broadband Edict

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The Illinois Office of Broadband asked the FCC to reconsider a decision to forego a federal-state partnership on broadband deployment. The state seeks to establish the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to “expand the availability, affordability, and utilization of broadband services” to underserved constituents.

 In a petition submitted on April 9, the Office of Broadband claims that collaboration between federal and state-level officials would “serve the public interest” in pursuit of the outlined goals. The petition also noted the effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on increased broadband usage with people working from home, students participating in e-learning activities, medical professionals practicing telemedicine, and friends and family “gathering” virtually while social distancing.   

The pandemic has placed pressure on governments to accelerate the deployment and availability of broadband, according to the petition. To maximize benefits, the document argues that “by taking a more coordinated approach, the FCC and state authorities can leverage their shared expertise and joint resources.”

The Office of Broadband also asked the FCC to discontinue treating “broadband offering 25/3 Mbps service” as a minimum service. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Broadband asserts that a “more robust and scalable broadband service at greater speeds” is necessary and suggests a minimum tier of 50/5 Mbps. The petition also recommends the agency reconsiders what constitutes “acceptable basic broadband.”

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