Genachowski: Broadband Mission Not Accomplished

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FCC chairman Julius Genachowski defended the FCC's conclusion in a deployment status report released last week that broadband was not beeing rolled out to all Americans "in a reasonable and timely fashion."
In a speech Wednesday July 28 in Seattle at the convention of OPASTCO, the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies, the chairman said that some had looked at the report's finding that most people had broadband access as a sign of success, but he did not see it that way.

Various industry players and legislators took issue with the report's conclusion in the wake of its findings that close to 95% of the country did have broadband access. Instead, Genachowski said that 24 million figure was "unacceptable," and even evoked in his word choice, whether intentionally or not, a now-famous shipboard banner overestimating the progress of the Iraq war.

"Just last week, the FCC issued a report finding that up to 24 million Americans -- again, mostly in rural areas -- do not have access to robust broadband," he said, according to a copy of the speech. "The different reactions to this report were telling. Some saw that high-speed broadband was available to a very large percentage of Americans, and said everything is fine. Nothing more to do. Mission accomplished. I disagree."

He used that as a jumping-off point for pitching reform of the Universal Service Fund, which almost everybody agrees is a good idea.

The FCC has set 4 megabytes downstream as the standard for broadband deployment, and the chairman said he doesn't see that getting raised to the 100 megabits some have argued for. He didn't exactly commit to keeping it at 4 mbps, but said 100 wasn't happening and that any pitches to raise it above that level would have to include how much it would cost and who would be paying for it.

He pointed out that the FCC's own broadband plan estimates that it would cost $320 billion to provide that 100 Mbps universal speed to every U.S. household, which could translate to a seven-fold increase in the consumer contribution to the fund
"Even with different assumptions, there's no dispute that we'd be looking at massive and unprecedented new funding requirements, and significant increases in the required contributions to the fund. We can't do that," he said.