Pans, Praise For FCC Broadband Report

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Reaction to the FCC's conclusion Tuesday that broadband was not being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner was sharp and divided along the same political lines as the network neutrality debate.

The Federal Communications Commission, per the Telecommunications Act of 1996, has to regularly report on the state of broadband. This is the sixth report following five that concluded deployment was timely and reasonable.

This commission has a new chairman, Julius Genachowski, and this report had some new ground rules, including what speed of service qualified as broadband and a tighter definition of where it was available.

The result, the FCC said, is that broadband deployment does not meet the congressional standard of timely and reasonable for "all" Americans.

Free Press praised the conclusion, based in part on findings that 14 million Americans don't have access to high-speed service as newly defined. Also, less than 2% of Americans have service capable of originating a high-definition quality video stream, and less than half of broadband connections are capable of receiving one.

"Today's report is the first time the FCC has determined that broadband deployment is not reasonable and timely, and we are extremely pleased that the Genachowski FCC had the courage to do what all previous Commissions could not, and that is to put politics aside and take an objective look at the law and the data," network neutrality backer fan and Free Press research director S. Derek Turner said in a statement.

"This report appropriately updates the standard for what speeds count as broadband, and recognizes the gaping digital divide in communities throughout this country," Parul Desai, VP of Media Access Project, said. "Chairman Genachowski should be commended for improving the inquiry's analyses in a way that highlights obvious disparities in deployment of affordable high-speed services to rural regions and low-income areas." MAP also supports FCC effort to clarify its broadband authority.

Verizon disagreed with the report's conclusion. "It makes no sense that, after the National Broadband Plan concluded that 95% of Americans have access to wireline broadband, the FCC majority now suggests broadband deployment is not reasonable and timely," Verizon senior VP of regulatory affairs Kathleen Grillo said in a statement. "The report's conclusion is hard to understand, given America's extraordinary progress in deploying broadband, fueled by hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment. Of course, we still have work to do to ensure that broadband reaches the remaining 5% of American households. Verizon has and will continue to support comprehensive reform of the universal service program and other policies to help achieve that important goal. But we hope that the FCC's finding is not used as a justification to roll back the bipartisan, pro-investment policies that have brought broadband to 290 million Americans."

AT&T said the report drew an "unreasonable conclusion," though it tried to look on the bright side: "To the extent that this report provides momentum to finally fix the long-broken universal service/intercarrier compensation problem, and to remove actual economic barriers to broadband investment, then that is a positive development," blogged AT&T's SVP-Federal Regulatory Bob Quinn. "However, to the extent it is used as pretext to justify more investment-choking regulation a la the Title II debate, we will have squandered another opportunity to address the real broadband issues in this country."

The FCC said Tuesday that the report underscored the need for "comprehensive reform of the Universal Service Fund, innovative approaches to unleashing new spectrum, and removal of barriers to infrastructure investment."

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