New FCC report gives broadband service deployment low grade

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A report from the FCC concludes that broadband service is not being deployed in a "reasonable and timely" manner.

The report was based on data provided by service providers for December 2008. Between 14 million and 24 million US residents, or about 4.5 percent to 8 percent of the nation's population, are unable to obtain broadband in the places they live.

However, previous reports, which are required annually under the 1996 Telecom Act, have found that broadband deployments were occurring in a reasonable and timely manner. This dichotomy is in part attributed to how the term "broadband" is now defined. Previous reports defined broadband as services providing at least 200 kbps bi-directionally. The new report now defines broadband as connections supporting download speeds of at least 4 Mbps.

Still,  both AT&T and Verizon refute the findings. "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 vice president for federal 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."

Meanwhile, the Rural Cellular Association agreed with the findings of the report. The RCA has long fought special access fees. Those operators that don't have a landline business, particularly in rural areas, don't want to pay over-the-top dollar for "special access," the dedicated lines companies need to connect their high-speed Internet circuits to the larger broadband lines.   

There is fear among the FCC's Republican commissioners, along with AT&T and Verizon, that the FCC might leverage the findings of the report to justify the authority it wants to have over broadband services.

For more:
- see this Connected Planet article

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