Broadband Deployment Slower than Desired
There is still a broadband gap in the U.S.
The 2016 Broadband Progress Report issued by the FCC is a requirement of Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The report focuses on "advanced telecommunications capability" that is broadband and how well it is being deployed. Is it being delivered in a "reasonable and timely fashion?"
The FCC chairman's draft reportstates, "While the nation continues to make progress in broadband deployment, advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to all Americans."
An important consideration is that the report covers access to broadband services. I did not see any data on the actual connection measurement of broadband users. The number of connected Americans is bound to be smaller than the sites where access is available. Broadband access may be available, but is it affordable?The Broadband Definition
The FCC changed the standard definition for broadband in 2010, increasing it from 200 Kilobits per second to 4 Megabits per second. This means that the number of broadband users dropped, as many had DSL access that did meet the new standard. Though the FCC has the ability to change the definition of broadband, it doesn't have the power to force Internet service providers to match those speeds. (See my previous blogs, USF and Broadband: Good for Business, Redefining Broadband, and Broadband Access: Not in Everyone's Back Yard.)Looking at the Facts
The accessibility of broadband has increased, meaning that the percentage of those without access to broadband has decreased as seen in the chart below from the FCC draft report:
US Telecom is a trade association representing service providers and suppliers for the telecom industry. The post from US Telecom, "FCC Broadband Report Lacks Credibility" states:
"It would seem that the FCC's draft report should carry the headline 'our policies have failed' since it concludes that six years after adoption of the national broadband plan, the commission's actions haven't produced even so much as a 'reasonable' level of broadband deployment. But, of course, with more than $75 billion a year being invested by broadband providers, network capacity burgeoning, and speeds increasing exponentially -- as the commission's latest fact-based broadband measurement report shows -- no one actually believes that deployment in the United States is unreasonable. Unfortunately, this annual process has become a cynical exercise, one that eschews dispassionate analysis, and is patently intended to reach a predetermined conclusion that will justify a continuing expansion of the agency's own regulatory reach."
Notice that this statement does not mention increasing the accessibility of broadband or keeping the cost down. Ten percent in the U.S. without broadband access is still a big number, 30 million+. The cost of improving access will probably be higher since the rural locations will have a lower user density and therefore less revenue for the providers. Some of the rural locations may never gain access. I think that the percentage decrease of Americans not covered in the future reports will slow down. This may be what the FCC sees for the future and is trying to push the provider's further in their access investments.Actions to Increase Broadband
This is matter of investment. Government funds have been allocated to improve broadband accessibility. These include:
- Carrier acceptance of $1.5 billion in annual support from Connect America Fund, designated to expand rural broadband deployment to 3.6 million homes and business by the end of 2020 in 45 states and one territory.
- Authorization of $34 million in support through the Rural Broadband Experiments program in 12 states.
- The FCC has $2.8 billion+ in funding commitments, including $1 billion for broadband connections of 100 Mbps and higher, and $1.1 billion for Wi-Fi for Funding Year 2015.
- Mobility Fund Phase I auction offers winning bidders eligible to receive up to $300 million in one-time support to provide 3G or better mobile voice and broadband services to areas where those services did not exist.
- Tribal Mobility Fund Phase I auction offers winning bidders to receive up to approximately $50 million in one-time support to provide 3G or better mobile voice and broadband services to tribal lands.
It is still up to the ISPs to expand their network coverage. The FCC has committed funds essentially subsidizing more broadband support, both wired and wireless. Let's see how the ISPs will use these funds in the 2016 FCC report.