Genachowski On Broadband: Mission Not Accomplished

Says 24 million Americans without access is "unacceptable"
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FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Wednesday defended the FCC's
conclusion in a broadband deployment status report released last week that
broadband was not being rolled out to all Americans "in a reasonable
and timely fashion."

In a speech Wednesday in Seattle at the convention of OPASTCO, the
Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications
Companies, the chairman said that some had looked at the report's finding that
most people had broadband access as a sign of success, but he did not see it
that way.

Various industry players and legislators took issue with the
report's conclusion in the wake of its findings that close to 95% of the
country did have broadband access. Instead, Genachowski said that 24
million figure was "unacceptable," and even evoked in his word
choice, whether intentionally or not, a now-famous shipboard banner
overestimating the progress of the Iraq war.

"Just last week, the FCC issued a report finding that up to
24 million Americans - again, mostly in rural areas - do not have access to
robust broadband," he said, according to a copy of the speech. "The
different reactions to this report were telling. Some saw that high-speed
broadband was available to a very large percentage of Americans, and said
everything is fine. Nothing more to do. Mission accomplished. I disagree."

He used that as a jumping-off point for pitching reform of the
Universal Service Fund, which almost everybody agrees is a good idea.

The FCC has set 4 megabytes downstream as the standard for
broadband deployment, and the chairman said he doesn't see that getting raised
to the 100 megabits some have argued for. He didn't exactly commit to keeping
it at 4 Mbps, but said 100 wasn't happening and that any pitches to raise it
above four would have to include how much it would cost and who would be paying
for it.

He pointed out that the FCC's own broadband plan estimates that it
would cost $320 billion to provide that 100 Mbps universal speed, which could
translate to a seven-fold increase in the consumer contribution to the fund.

"Even with different assumptions, there's no dispute that
we'd be looking at massive and unprecedented new funding requirements, and
significant increases in the required contributions to the fund. We can't do
that," he said.

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