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ACAC: COVID-19 Stress Test Buttresses FCC's Timely Buildout Conclusion

(Image credit: Future)

ACA Connects said the FCC needs to continue to conclude that advanced telecommunications is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, and that COVID-19 has revealed that is the best conclusion to draw.

ACAC was making that point in comments in the FCC's notice of inquiry, seeking input on its next Sec. 706 annual report to Congress on broadband deployment.

The FCC has been concluding under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai that ongoing deployment year-over-year progress by ISPs meets the standard of reasonable and timely, following Democratic FCC's conclusion that because it was not yet available to all Americans, progress toward that goal did not meet the standard.

ACAC agreed. "ACA Connects members and other broadband providers have continued to expand and upgrade their broadband networks throughout the previous year," it told the FCC, with the pandemic putting a spotlight on that.

"The onset of COVID-19 put these networks to the test—and they delivered. "As Americans turned to broadband to meet their daily needs and to stay connected in the midst of this pandemic, broadband networks were able to bear the increased traffic loads and shifting patterns of daily usage," ACAC said. "This success story is the result of broadband providers’ sustained investments in their networks – driven to a significant extent by a light-touch regulatory regime."

A conclusion that deployment is not reasonable and timely authorizes the FCC to regulate, including rate regulations, to make it so. 

ACAC conceded there is still deployment work to be done, which it said the FCC can help with by, among other things, insuring that utility pole replacement costs are allocated fairly and defining lack of deployment narrowly to avoid overbuilding private capital.