EchoStar Pushes Coverage Over Speed

Company says it is almost ready to deploy its own satellite broadband service

Waxing poetic, EchoStar told the FCC that it should not "let the perfect become the enemy of the good." Translation: don't define broadband by speeds high enough to exclude satellite broadband, which can be deployed more rapidly to rural and other hard-to reach places.

It also said it has applied for stimulus money to launch a satellite broadband service that could make that a reality.

That entreaty came in its filing in the FCC's request for comment as it tries to come up with a definition of broadband for the national rollout plan Congress has charged it with producing by Feb. 17.

EchoStar said the definition should be "at least" 768 kbps downstream and 200 kbps upstream, far lower than some commenters have suggested, but enough for satellite operators to handle. That is the same threshold adopted by NTIA and the Agriculture Department's Rural Utility Service for its broadband stimulus/grant money, the company points out.

That definition was arrived at in consultation with the FCC, though then acting FCC Chairman Michael Copps made clear the FCC's definition would not necessarily be the same.

EchoStar suggests that two standards would be counterproductive. "It would be unfortunate if a broadband provider were deemed eligible to receive funding under the NTIA/RUS programs, and yet were not deemed to even be proposing a broadband service under a heightened Commission standard," said the company.

While some commenters have suggested the higher speeds are necessary to handle real-world applications like telemedicine, EchoStar argues that the FCC should keep its eye on the primary goal, which the satellite company says is universal deployment.

"The Commission should ensure that satellite technology, with its unique ability to reach remote areas, is not hampered from being put to duty to serve the Act's goals by an unduly rigorous definition," said the company.

EchoStar also points out that it has applied for some broadband stimulus funds from NTIA and the Ag Department for what it calls its "nearly-ready-to-deploy" broadband service. It plans to offer a lower priced basic service, and a higher priced, higher speed service.