The FCC is seeking comment on how it should define advanced telecommunications capability (high-speed broadband) to better identify unserved areas in its next broadband deployment (706) report, including whether it should set a higher speed benchmark.
Currently the FCC defines high-speed broadband as 4 mbps downstream, 768Kbps upstream. "Should the Commission adopt an additional, higher benchmark to begin tracking progress toward long-term national broadband goals?" the commission asks in the notice.
Among the questions the commission wants answered in the Notice of Inquiry include whether the areas identified in the last report as unserved remain so (though that could depend on whether it changes the speed definition), how and whether the FCC should measure mobile broadband deployment, which is not part of the 706 report 477 data collection form, and whether it should still use that form at all.
It also wants to know if its definition of reasonable and timely deployment is reasonable. Its current definition suggests that it will not conclude deployment is reasonable and timely until all Americans have access to broadband or are in the process of getting it. "The Commission found that broadband was not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to all Americans because as many as 26 million Americans live in areas where broadband has still not been deployed and many live in areas where there is no business case to offer broadband," the notice says. Its current definition centers on "existing deployment and current actions that will meaningfully affect broadband deployment in the near future. . . . [but not] general plans or goals to deploy broadband, particularly long-range plans or goals that are uncertain to be realized."
"More than 20 million Americans remain without access to robust broadband, and there is broad consensus that market forces alone won't close this gap in the near future. And almost one third of Americans -- 100 million of us -- haven't adopted broadband," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in a statement. "Some find this acceptable; I do not."
The FCC uses cost, quality and adoption to gauge availability and asks for comment on that as well.
The commission has given commenters until Sep. 6 for comments and Oct. 4 for reply comments to weigh in.
The commission concluded in its most recent 706 report that for the second consecutive report broadband was not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion and that as many as 26 million Americans live in areas that are unserved by broadband and that many are likely to remain that way because there is no business case for it and public efforts are unlikely to reach them "despite the growing costs of digital exclusion."