Yesterday, the FCC released its latest report on broadband deployment. From Chairman Julius Genachowski’s statement about the report:
On Congress’s question of universality—whether all Americans are on track to being served—the best available data shows that between 14 and 24 million Americans live in areas where they cannot get broadband. These are mostly expensive-to-serve areas with low population density. Without substantial reforms to the agency’s universal service programs, these areas will continue to be unserved, denied access to the transformative power of broadband. So, taking account of the millions of Americans who, despite years of waiting, still have little prospect of getting broadband deployed to their homes, we must conclude that broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.
As is typical with the increasingly political FCC, reactions to the report’s findings split along party lines, with Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn — both strong supporters of stricter Internet regulations — siding with fellow Democrat Genachowski, while the Commission’s two Republican commissioners dissented. From Commissioner Robert McDowell’s statement:
Collecting granular data, including subscribership numbers, is important. But, subscribership data does not equate to the “availability” of broadband, which is what Congress requires the Commission to assess under Section 706. In many instances the Report confuses the facts by substituting the terms “deployment” and “subscribership” as if they were synonymous and interchangeable. They are not. “Deployment” and “subscribership” are two distinct concepts with different attributes and areas for improvement. Our task is to focus on Congress’ explicit directive to analyze deployment progress for purposes of the Section 706 Report. Today, however, the majority is sidelining the deployment figure of 95 percent in favor of a seemingly smaller subscribership number. It is only reasonable to question the rationale behind this confusing pivot.
And from Commissioner Meredith Baker’s reaction:
From 2003 to 2009, under a consistent minimal regulatory framework, broadband providers have invested $27 billion annually in networks and infrastructure. Each year networks go further and faster. The National Broadband Plan found that 95 percent of the U.S. population has access to a 4 Mbps/1 Mbps terrestrial broadband service, and 80 percent have choice of broadband offerings. In every prior Section 706 Report, the Commission concluded that broadband deployment was timely and reasonable. In a striking departure from that decade of consistent Commission findings, the Commission has changed course by concluding that broadband deployment now is not reasonable and timely. I cannot support this decision. Broadband infrastructure deployment and investment are a remarkable and continuing success story, and I am troubled by giving such significant efforts a failing grade.”