The FCC definitely needs a single definition of broadband for policy and data-collection purposes, particularly if it decides to expand the Universal Service Fund to include supporting broadband deployment. In fact, it already has one.
That was the message to the commission from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association in response to the FCC's request for more tailored comments on defining broadband as part of its national rollout plan, due to Congress by February 2010.
The FCC last year changed its definition of broadband to "services with download speeds of more than 768 kbps and upload speeds of more than 200 kbs." NCTA points out that the definition was subsequently incorporated into the broadband stimulus funding programs of the NTIA and RUS.
NCTA argues that the FCC should not use defining broadband as a vehicle for new substantive speed, price, or openness conditions, or tied to characteristics like latency, symmetry or mobility.
Instead, said NCTA, the commission should define it more broadly as "the opportunity to purchase services and equipment that enable them to access the Internet at any time and use the types of applications that are most commonly used today, such as e-mail and web browsing," and use the current speed definition if it has a need for speed as part of the definition.
The FCC asked as part of its request for information whether the definition should be an evolving one. NCTA said no. "A constantly evolving definition of "broadband" is not necessary or helpful to achieving that goal."
It argued that, as a practical matter, the FCC's definition change last year has already placed a paperwork collection burden, and that definition is already being used to collect data and map broadband. "If the Commission adopts a different definition of broadband than the one that NTIA is using in creating the map, it will be difficult to reconcile any reports issued by the Commission with the map created by NTIA."
While the FCC was charged by Congress with consulting with NTIA and RUS on the definition of broadband, then-FCC Chairman Michael Copps said that would not necessarily be the same definition adopted by the FCC.