Skip to main content

FCC: Two-Thirds Of Net Sub's Connections Aren't Up To Speed

The FCC released its latest Internet Access Report Wednesday (Dec. 8) and it concludes that more than two-thirds (68%) of the reported Internet access connections (90,963,000) were too slow in one or both downstream and upstream measures to qualify as high-speed according to the FCC's benchmark in the FCC's Sixth Broadband Deployment Report, which is 4 megabits downstream and 1 megabit upstream.

That Sixth Broadband report is the so-called 706 report, based on that section in the Communications Act that directs the FCC "to encourage the deployment of advanced telecommunications to all Americans." The FCC released that report last July. (Section 706 is the same section the FCC plans to use to help justify net neutrality regulations, according to senior FCC officials).

Actually, the FCC's data collection for the form 477 Internet Access report uses a proxy for that 4/1 benchmark of 3 mbps downstream/768 kb upstream, so what the report shows is that 68% of connections don't meet either of those lower 3/768 benchmarks either.

But the data is based on subscribership, rather than availability, so there is no way to tell whether a lower speed is because no higher one is offered, or because a subscriber simply chose the lower speed.

About 39% of reportable connections (51,573,000 connections) were too slow in both directions, while about 19% (or 25,021,000 connections) were too slow downstream only, and about 11% were too slow upstream.

The semi-annual study "summarizes information about Internet access connections over 200 kilobits per second (kbps) in at least one direction in service in the United States," in this case as of Dec. 31, 2009.

The study is based on advertised speeds, so the FCC concedes "it is possible that the purchased service will not operate at its advertised speed at all times."

There were a number of findings that suggesting the billions invested by cable and telco nets has beey paying off: Between 1999 and 2009--the FCC now has a decade's worth of data--total fixed-location connections grew from 2 million to 81 million, or a compound annual growth rate of 42%.

Over the same period, residential fixed-location connections grew from fewer than 2 million connections to 74 million, a compound annual growth rate of 45%. Household adoption rates increased from 3 per hundred households to 60.

Free Press lambasted the FCC and its chairman for what it called "highly flawed and misleading analysis."

Free Press wants the FCC to gather data on where networks actually are, rather than subscribers. Even with the FCC's change from zip code-level data to census tract, there could still be areas in a tract where there are people but no plant and thus no broadband availability.

The FCC promised in the broadband plan to refine its data collection to reflect where the infrastructure is, but has not made that change yet.

Free Press says that after making data-collection changes back in 2008 that were supposed to allow it to examine the connection between market concentration and quality of service, price and adoption level, instead "continues to fail to take advantage of this information."

Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner minced no words, saying the study's shortcomings were "inexcusable" and suggested that "Chairman Genachowski's commitment to run a 'data-driven' agency is thus far just an empty slogan." A spokesperson for the chairman had no comment.