IIA Study: Consumers See Mobile, Fixed Broadband as Functional Equivalents

The FCC's conclusion in 2016 and again in 2018 that mobile broadband is not a "functional substitute" for fixed broadband is outdated and needs to change.

That is the conclusion of a June study of 10,000 consumers commissioned by the Internet Innovation Alliance.

Rick Boucher

Rick Boucher

IIA honorary chairman Rick Boucher said the FCC relied on the 2016 analysis in making the determination they are not substitutes, and that those findings are now obsolete. He said it was time for a fresh look at fixed and mobile broadband, and the IIA was sharing the findings and an accompanying white paper with the FCC Tuesday (July 17).

Boucher said 43% of respondents either preferred mobile or had no preference, with 47% saying they preferred fixed, which Boucher said was functional equivalency. 

He also said consumers use wired and wireless in the same ways across various functions, including streaming video or watching news and reports.

Boucher said the FCC should tell Congress in its next annual report on availability of advanced communications that the two are functional equivalents.

Related: CWA Says Wireless Is No Substitute for Wired Broadband

The FCC is under a congressional directive to periodically assess deployment of advanced communications and is empowered to regulate in the event it finds it is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner, as was the finding of the report under FCC chair Ajit Pai's Democratic predecessors.

Boucher said the goal is for the FCC to use the most current data when it reports to Congress, which has made it clear that deployment of advanced communications is a key policy goal.

Consumers are seeing fixed and mobile services as exchangeable on price, affordability and speed, not simply that they would like mobile as well as fixed, all those things being equal, Boucher said, adding that when 5G arrives, the numbers will shift dramatically toward the mobile side.

But even with the numbers moving toward functional equivalency, fixed broadband remains the preferred access point, with 26% saying that was their preference, versus 23% for mobile, 20% no preference, 14% fiber and 7% DSL.

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.