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Walden Takes Issue With FCC Broadband Conclusions

Add Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chair of the House Communications Subcommittee,
to those not happy with the FCC's conclusion that broadband is not being
deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion in its just released 706 report on
broadband deployment.

In a statement, Walden joined Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell and
representatives of the cable and phone industries in collectively scratching
their heads over that conclusion. The FCC has used the failure to meet that
deployment standard to take affirmative steps to push adoption and deployment,
including using it as authority in its new network neutrality rules.

"It is one thing to recognize that some areas of the country-typically
rural-are difficult to serve; it is quite another to say that broadband is not
being reasonably and timely deployed to all Americans," said Walden.
"The former only requires the FCC to consider reform of the Universal
Service Fund; the latter is a claimed excuse to impose network neutrality and
to further regulate the Internet."

The FCC is factoring price, speed and availability to anchor institutions like
schools and libraries into the equation of what constitutes reasonable
deployment, looking not just at availability and uptake.

Walden sees it differently, and says Congress was looking at it differently
when it mandated the 706 report on broadband deployment. "It's difficult to
understand how an objective look at the facts can lead the FCC to conclude that
our progress on broadband is lacking," he said. "Congress has tasked
the Commission in section 706 with examining the ‘availability' and
‘deployment' of high-speed broadband, and the numbers don't lie. Even the FCC
has confessed that wired broadband is available to 95 percent of Americans and
that wireless broadband is available to 98 percent. This doesn't even account
for new satellite broadband offerings, which the FCC has recognized as a
potentially efficient way of ensuring universal coverage.  Even the small
percent of homes that don't have access is shrinking. Last year the FCC
estimated that 8.9 million out of 130 million households did not have
high-speed broadband available; using the same analysis, the FCC itself
estimates that number has dropped to 4.6 million."

The FCC pointed to the figures that over 20 million people did not have access
to high-speed broadband and over 100 million did not subscribe, saying both
were signs of failure to meet the deployment standard. The report did say
progress had been made, but not enough.