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FCC Launches New Broadband Inquiry

The commission is keeping 25 Mbps as a high-speed broadband definition and asking whether mobile broadband should count.

The FCC Thursday launched the Notice of Inquiry for its next Sec. 706 review, a congressionally mandated report on whether advanced telecommunications services are being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.

The item keeps the 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream definition as "table stakes" for high-speed broadband. It also asks whether mobile should be included in assessing the deployment of advanced telecom—and whether it should have a lower speed threshold—while tentatively suggesting it serves "different consumer needs" from fixed.

Cable operators have long pondered why wireless is not counted in deployment tallies.

The item also seeks comment on whether the FCC should include other factors, like latency—the speed at which packets travel—in its definition of advanced telecom, and whether any "new considerations" would warrant a change in the FCC's recent findings that advanced telecom is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the FCC needed to close the digital divide and address deployment shortfalls in low income and rural communities before it can declare mission accomplished.

Commissioner Pai supported issuance of the item—it is a congressional directive that the FCC conduct the study—but said he cannot support the Kabuki theater of the Sec. 706 report, which he said, if past is prologue and he is sure it will be, will constitute a reverse engineering conclusion that advance telecom is not being deployed in that timely manner, which will allow the FCC to continue to maintain its limitless authority to regulate broadband.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said there is an old maxim that, if you can measure it you can manage it, which was what the FCC was doing.