FCC Extends Sec. 706 Report Comment Deadline

Request by Democratic Senators cited in decision to provide more time

The FCC has extended, by two weeks, the deadline for input on its latest Notice of Inquiry (NOI) request for input for the thirteenth Sec. 706 report, which is the extent to which advanced telecommunications is being deployed to all Americans on a reasonable and timely basis.

The new deadlines are Sept. 21 for comments and Oct. 6 for replies.

Various groups had sought longer extensions extension, as had a dozen Democratic Senators concerned the FCC might lower the target speeds for high speed broadband in potentially declaring wireless to be a substitute for wired access, which previous commissions had not concluded.

But the FCC said it thought two weeks was sufficient to give the parties time to analyze the issues raised in the proceeding. IT also noted that the Sec. 706 report has a mandatory 180-day time frame, and a longer delay could compromise the FCC's ability to both consider the full record and meet that timetable.

"We find that permitting interested parties an additional two weeks in which to file their comments and reply comments will allow parties to provide the Commission with more thorough comments, ensuring that the Commission has a complete record on which to develop its decisions while giving the Commission sufficient time to meet its statutory obligation," said the FCC's Wireline Competition and Wireline Telecommunications bureaus. 

In releasing the notice for input on the new report, the FCC signaled it would likely not continue to require 100% deployment to conclude that broadband was being reasonably deployed. The FCC under previous Democratic chairmen has made that the benchmark, so the reports have said, much to ISPs displeasure, that deployment was not reasonable and timely.

Such a conclusion continues to empower the FCC to regulate to make it reasonable and timely.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has been critical of those previous conclusions based on less than 100% availability.

The new inquiry will focus on whether the "progress" toward universal access has been reasonable and timely.

The FCC released the 2016 Sec. 706 report NOI Aug. 4, 2016, but did not issue a report on the findings before FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler exited in January.