ACA to FCC: Hurricanes Should Not Do Number on Deployment Numbers

The America Cable Association has told the FCC that its Sec. 706 review of whether advanced telecommunications is being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner should exclude hurricanes and other natural disasters.

That came in comments for the FCC's next Sec. 706 reports and as the Carolinas are still reeling from the impact of Hurricane Florence.

Related: FCC's Pai Agrees with Sec. 706 Report Finding, Sort of

"A loss of broadband infrastructure in an area as the direct result of natural disaster sheds no light on whether efforts to deploy broadband to the area have been reasonable or timely," ACA said. "The Commission should exclude storm-damaged regions from its overall deployment findings as it did in its previous report, while reporting separately on progress to restore broadband availability in such regions. This approach will best allow the Commission to measure consistently whether 'reasonable and timely' deployment is occurring year to year. At the very least, any determination whether deployment to a disaster-affected area is “reasonable and timely” must account for the tireless efforts undertaken to reconstruct damaged facilities and restore service in the wake of major disasters."

According to the Communications Act, if the FCC concludes that deployment is not reasonable and timely, it is empowered to regulate to make it so, including potentially rate regulation.

Under past Democratic chairs, the FCC concluded that because advanced telecom was not available to everyone, it was not being deployed to "all Americans" in a reasonable and timely fashion." But new FCC chair Ajit Pai was always critical of that "all or nothing" (or at least "all or insufficient") view of deployment under his predecessors and is taking a different tack, which is fine with ACA.

"ACA agrees with the Commission that the phrasing of Section 706 supports a “progress-based” approach to its annual inquiry on broadband deployment. Whether broadband 'is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion' is clearly a question of progress over time, one that reasonably incorporates some prediction of how current policies will affect future deployment.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.