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FCC's Wheeler: Fixed Broadband Deployment Not Good Enough

The FCC has once again found that fixed broadband is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion.

Such a finding empowers the commission--the degree to which is a point of hot debate--to move some regulatory levers to achieve that aim.

FCC Chairman Tom wheeler let the cat out of the bag in a blog posting about the FCC's 2016 Broadband Progress Report  and other items teed up for consideration at the FCC's Jan. 28 meeting. But it was far from a surprise. Recent reports under Democratic chairs have come to the same conclusion.

ISPs counter that the vast majority of the population has speed and choice, with more on the way.

"To maximize the benefits of broadband for the American people, we not only need to facilitate innovation in areas like public safety and civic engagement, but also to make sure all Americans have advanced communications capabilities," he said. "The Commission has a statutory mandate to assess and report annually on whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion."

He said the top takeaway from the report was that consumers need access to both fixed and mobile and that when it comes to the former "34 million Americans still lack access to fixed high-speed broadband.

He said that was particularly the case with rural Americans and tribal lands, which he said are being disproportionately left behind at roughly 40% compared to 4% without access in urban areas, adding: "That's not good enough."

Wheeler said that the fixed high-speed definition of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload will remain the standard but there needed to be discussion about what the mobile standard should be. He said he hoped the report would also prompt a discussion on how to improve that deployment.

Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior EVP, was ready to talk, but only to say the FCC was trying to have it both ways.

"It's bad enough the FCC keeps moving the goal posts on their definition of broadband, apparently so they can continue to justify intervening in obviously competitive markets," he said in a statement. "But now they are even ignoring their own definition in order to pad their list of accomplishments."

“We've seen this movie before. In order to apply its net neutrality rules to as many services as possible, the FCC considers very low speeds to be broadband then cites a much higher speed level in order to claim broadband is not being reasonably and timely deployed under Section 706. So, which is it? “It's beginning to look like the FCC will define broadband whichever way maximizes its power under whichever section of the law they want to apply. This cannot be what Congress intended.”