Industry Groups Highly Critical of FCC Broadband Report


The FCC caught flak from a number of industry groups for its conclusion on Tuesday that broadband is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner.

That disputed conclusion came in the FCC's congressionally mandated 706 report on the state of advanced telecom deployment, which it released Tuesday, Aug. 21.

"This FCC report became obsolete before the ink dried because it is based on obsolete law and comically obsolete technological assumptions," said chairman Scott Cleland. "This report is an anachronism and a waste of taxpayer funds," he said. members include the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the American Cable Association.

Broadband for America cochair and former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. called the FCC assessment inaccurate because it overlooked the vast private-sector investment. The report did cite that investment, but concluded it was not enough.

BfA pointed out that according to FCC data as of mid-2011, 96% of households had access to wired broadband and 99% had access to wireless. The FCC talked about advances in wireless broadband in its report, but does not include that toward the deployment benchmark -- it did ask in a notice of inquiry in the report whether wireless should count going forward.

"The FCC's 706 report discounts the significant efforts being made by the private sector -- despite uncertainty for investment stemming from a persistently weak economy and repeated attempts by the Commission to exercise greater direction and control over this inherently unpredictable yet consistently innovative sector -- to continue building out broadband infrastructure," said the Internet Innovation Alliance in a statement. "Contrary to the FCC's assertions, more government control over the telecommunications industry with new rules is absolutely not a prerequisite for closing the digital divide."

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation also took issue with the commission. "The FCC's latest 706 Report on the progress of broadband deployment in the United States reaches the erroneous conclusion that we're not making reasonable progress toward bringing broadband networking to all Americans," the group said.

The commission said that because there were still 19 million households unserved by fixed broadband, that meant that it was not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to "all" Americans [emphasis FCC's], suggesting that benchmark would not be met until there was 100% access.

"The report's conclusions are not supported by the evidence, do not conform to the statutory direction of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, and overlook the non-adoption problem that actually dwarfs the deployment problem by an enormous degree," said ITIF.

The Free State Foundation, which has been pushing for less regulation of broadband, saw the report as buttressing a foregone conclusion. "The FCC's chairman, Julius Genachowski, may claim the FCC's action in releasing the Broadband Deployment report is data-driven," said FSF president Randolph May. "But it is rather clear that the report's bottom-line determination that broadband is not being deployed on a 'reasonable and timely' basis is philosophy-driven. And the philosophy driving the majority's determination is a pro-regulatory one -- a mindset that will look to regulation first to try to manage a dynamic communications marketplace."