FCC Report Draws Divided Reaction

Broadband debate split along same political lines as net neutrality
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Reaction poured in over the FCC's conclusion Tuesday that
broadband was not being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner, and it was
divided along the same political lines as the network neutrality debate.

The FCC, per the Telecommunications Act of 1996, has to regularly
report on the state of broadband. This is the sixth report following five that
concluded deployment was timely and reasonable. But this is a new chairman and
the report had some new ground rules, including what speed of service qualified
and with a tighter definition of where it was available.

The result, said the FCC, did not meet the congressional standard
of timely and reasonable for "all" Americans.

Free Press praised the conclusion, based in part on findings that
14 million Americans don't have access to high-speed service as newly defined,
and that less than 2% have service capable of originating a high-definition
quality video stream and less than half of receiving one.

"Today's report is the first time the FCC has determined that
broadband deployment is not reasonable and timely, and we are extremely pleased
that the Genachowski FCC had the courage to do what all previous
Commissions could not, and that is to put politics aside and take an objective
look at the law and the data," said network neutrality fan and Free
Press Research Director S. Derek Turner in a statement.

"This report appropriately updates the standard for what speeds
count as broadband, and recognizes the gaping digital divide in communities
throughout this country," said Parul Desai, vice president of Media
Access Project. "Chairman Genachowski should be commended for
improving the inquiry's analyses in a way that highlights obvious disparities
in deployment of affordable high-speed services to rural regions and low-income
areas."

MAP is another fan of the FCC's effort to clarify its broadband
authority.

Verizon was squarely on the other side of the issue: "It makes no
sense that, after the National Broadband Plan concluded that 95 percent of
Americans have access to wireline broadband, the FCC majority now suggests
broadband deployment is not reasonable and timely," said Kathleen Grillo, Verizon
senior VP of regulatory affairs, in a statement. "The report's conclusion
is hard to understand, given America's extraordinary progress in deploying
broadband, fueled by hundreds of billions of dollars in private investment. Of
course, we still have work to do to ensure that broadband reaches the remaining
5 percent of American households. Verizon has and will continue to support
comprehensive reform of the universal service program and other policies to
help achieve that important goal. But we hope that the FCC's finding is not
used as a justification to roll back the bipartisan, pro-investment policies that
have brought broadband to 290 million Americans." 

AT&T called it an "unreasonable conclusion," though
it tried to look on the bright side: "To the extent that this report
provides momentum to finally fix the long-broken universal service/intercarrier
compensation problem, and to remove actual economic barriers to broadband
investment, then that is a positive development," blogged AT&T's SVP,
Federal Regulatory, Bob Quinn
. "However, to
the extent it is used as pretext to justify more investment-choking regulation
a la the Title II debate, we will have squandered another opportunity to
address the real broadband issues in this country."

The
FCC said Tuesday that the report underscored the need for "comprehensive
reform of the Universal Service Fund, innovative approaches to unleashing new
spectrum, and removal of barriers to infrastructure investment."

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