FCC Finds Broadband Deployment Still Wanting


As expected, the FCC for the
second time in a row has found that broadband is not being deployed in a
reasonable and timely fashion.

In last year's 706 report on the
status of broadband deployment, the FCC concluded that "[T]aking account
of the millions of Americans who, despite years of waiting, still have little
prospect of getting broadband deployed to their homes, we must conclude that
broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely
fashion," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said last July when that first
finding was announced.

Late Friday the FCC released its
latest report, which came to the same conclusion.

The FCC said that
"approximately 26 million Americans, mostly in rural communities located
in every region of the country, are denied access to the jobs and economic
opportunity made possible by broadband." The report also found that more
than 100 million Americans don't subscribe to broadband.

Among the reasons cited for
deployment not being reasonable or timely include price, speed and limited
capacity to schools and libraries.

The FCC did try to soften the blow
to the industry with the acknowledgement that "significant progress has
been made over the past few years in both the private and public sectors."

The report's conclusions were
expected because the chairman had signaled that the new report would still show
much work to be done, at least by the FCC's reckoning of the data collected for
the report.

Commissioner Robert McDowell
dissented from the report. He took issue with the FCC going beyond physical
deployment to include affordability.  Instead of looking to the plain
statutory language to determine Congress' intent, however, the Commission
relies on legislative report language to argue that even if broadband is
physically deployed to a particular area but is not affordable, it is not
considered available under Section 706," he said.

He was also unhappy that wireless
broadband was not included in the deployment equation, though the FCC says it
will include it in future reports.

"Institutionally, the
continued unwillingness of this Commission to provide any positive statements
about the state of telecommunications infrastructure and competition is
troubling," asid McDowell. "We should have kept this inquiry focused
on physical infrastructure as required by the statute and consistent with our
past practice."

He was troubled by last year's
conclusion, suggesting it could be used to re-regulate. McDowell said in his
dissent to the latest report that his fears had been realized when the FCC
majority approved the net neutrality rules, using the 706 report conclusion to
help make its case for the authority for the rules.

National Cable &
Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell called the reports'
conclusions "regrettable and wrong." He pointed not only to the
quarter of a trillion dollar investment broadband providers have put into their
networks in just the past three years but because the FCC itself has found that
95% of homes have access to high-speed broadband.

"We hope the FCC will reconsider
its erroneous conclusion and focus its energies on areas where it can make a
more constructive contribution to progress such as through universal service
reform and eliminating regulatory barriers that discourage investment and slow
the adoption of broadband," said Powell. "While we are disappointed
with conclusions of this report, we look forward to
working with Chairman Genachowski and the full Commission on our shared goal of
achieving universal broadband deployment for all Americans." Before joining
NCTA, Powell, the former deregulatory-minded chairman of the FCC, was
co-chairman of Broadband For America, a group pushing for private industry,
rather than government, solutions to broadband deployment adoption and deployment.

USTelecom, representing broadband
network providers on the phone side, agreed the FCC has missed the mark.
"Clearly the private sector is doing its part - broadband has been
deployed to virtually every corner of America where a business case can be made for investment."

Free Press was fine with the
report, including the exclusion of data on mobile broadband.

"Anyone who looks at the law
and the evidence will certainly agree with the FCC's conclusion that true
'broadband' deployment is not reasonable and timely," said Free Press
Research Director Derek Turner.

"Getting broadband to rural America is an important priority, but to fully realize Congress'
vision we need policymakers to focus on the lack of meaningful competition in
our broadband markets. This lack of competition is robbing Americans of the
affordable, advanced communications networks that are common in the cities and
towns of our global competitors. It's clear that wireless services are never
going to be a viable competitor to the cozy phone and cable duopoly, and thus
the FCC must offer real solutions to our competition crisis."