Over the dissent of Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC proposed in its notice of inquiry seeking input for its next “section 706 report” on deployment of advanced telecommunications capability to use much the same approach to analyzing deployment as it is did in the last report, including a focus on progress, rather than looking at whether ubiquitous deployment has been fully achieved.
Comments on the NOI for the fourteenth broadband deployment report — also known as a section 706 report, after the provision in the 1996 Telecommunications Act that mandated the reports, which the FCC has called by various names through the years — are due Sept. 10 in GN docket 18-238. Reply comments are due Sept. 24. The NOI was released today.
The NOI also proposes to “conduct an evaluation of fixed and mobile services using the same four categories for evaluation that were presented in the 2018 Report: (1) fixed services only; (2) mobile LTE services only; (3) fixed and mobile LTE services; and (4) fixed or mobile LTE services.” It also proposes to “rely again on a 5-year time period (2013-2017)” for the analysis and asked whether it should report on any additional speed tiers beyond those on which it reported in the 2018 report (25 megabits per second downstream/3 Mbps upstream, which is the agency’s broadband speed benchmark, 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, and 50 Mbps/5 Mbps for fixed service; and 5 Mbps/1 Mbps and 10 Mbps/3 Mbps for mobile LTE).
The NOI proposes retaining the 25 Mbps/3 Mbps benchmark for fixed broadband services.
The FCC said it would use the broadband deployment report to fulfill in part its requirement under the RAY BAUM’S Act — enacted earlier this year as part of an omnibus appropriations bill (TR Daily, March 23) — to publish a communications marketplace report in the last quarter of even-numbered years. It asked whether it would “be sufficient in the RAY BAUM’S ACT report to examine the same speeds as in the 2018 Report or would we need to report on additional speeds? If additional speeds are required, what speeds should be reported?”
Regarding mobile broadband services, the NOI says, “The 2018 Report found that, in the mobile environment, adoption of a single speed benchmark was unworkable given the inherent variability of the mobile experience, combined with data limitations and methodological issues. The Commission presented, as a starting point, LTE coverage data based on the Form 477 minimum advertised speeds of 5 Mbps/1 Mbps. The 2018 Report noted, however, that 5 Mbps/1 Mbps was not a mobile advanced telecommunications capability benchmark. Because these Form 477 data can only provide an understanding of the minimum speeds that consumers can expect to receive, the Commission supplemented the analysis with Ookla’s actual speed test data at a median speed of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps or higher. The Commission found that the Form 477 data, when supplemented with Ookla data, showed that in those geographical areas where most consumers live, speeds appear to be well above 5 Mbps/1 Mbps, with a median of 10 Mbps/3 Mbps or higher. The 2018 Report further recognized that more consumers are receiving these higher speeds and minimum speeds will likely increase over time as network configurations, technology, and consumer demands evolve. We seek comment on whether to take a similar approach when evaluating mobile speed data in the next report.”
Regarding the section 706 mandate for an evaluation of advanced telecommunications capability in schools and classrooms, the NOI says, “In the 2018 Report, the Commission continued to measure the availability of advanced telecommunications capability in schools and classrooms by using the Commission’s short term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff and the long-term goal of 1 Gbps [gigabits per second] per 1,000 students and staff. We propose to use these goals for the upcoming report and seek comment on doing so.”
The NOI also asks about the best ways to measure deployment of advanced telecommunications capability on tribal lands and about “how to address natural disasters in reporting on the progress of deploying broadband,” which can “dramatically reduce levels of broadband deployment in affected areas.”
The NOI seeks comment on a methodology for updating the benchmarks and on “whether and to what extent fixed and mobile services of similar functionality are substitutes for each other.”
In her dissenting statement, Commissioner Rosenworcel said, “I fear that today’s inquiry sets the stage for an unfortunate repeat of last year’s Broadband Deployment Report. That report found—despite clear evidence of 24 million Americans without high-speed service — that broadband deployment nationwide is both reasonable and timely. It ignored too many people in too many places struggling to access high-speed service and dealing with connectivity that falls short of what is necessary for full participation in the digital age.
“Moreover, this inquiry fundamentally errs by proposing to keep our national broadband standard at 25 Megabits per second. I believe this goal is insufficiently audacious. It is time to be bold and move the national broadband standard from 25 Megabits to 100 Megabits per second. When you factor in price, at this speed the United States is not even close to leading the world. That is not where we should be and if in the future we want to change this we need both a more powerful goal and a plan to reach it. Our failure to commit to that course here is disappointing. I regretfully dissent,” she added. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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