Benton Says FCC's Bad Broadband Standards and Data Lead to Bad Decision Again

Benton Institute for Broadband & Society

Friday, April 24, 2020

Press Release

Benton Says FCC's Bad Broadband Standards and Data Lead to Bad Decision Again

Earlier today, the Federal Communications Commission released the 2020 Broadband Deployment report. The FCC majority finds that for the third consecutive year broadband is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis. 

The following statement should be attributed to Jonathan Sallet:

To say that advanced broadband services are being deployed to all Americans on a “reasonable and timely basis” is to ignore the rapidly changing reality of how Americans work, live, learn, socialize, and receive healthcare — all through home broadband connections. The FCC’s analysis is woefully inadequate:

  • It counts broadband as being present where the FCC knows that it is not present, 
  • It recognizes soon-to-be-obsolete 25/3 networks as “advanced” when they are not, and
  • It fails to consider that Americans in the current crisis have dramatically changed the importance of home broadband connections (including the adequacy of upstream speeds in a moment of videoconferences galore).

Now is the time for the FCC to face up to what the nation now knows: everyone in the United States needs to be able to use High-Performance Broadband.

Jonathan Sallet is a Benton Senior Fellow. He works to promote broadband access and deployment, to advance competition, including through antitrust, and to preserve and protect internet openness. He is the former-Federal Communications Commission General Counsel (2013-2016), and Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Litigation, Antitrust Division, US Department of Justice (2016-2017). ​

The following statement should be attributed to Gigi Sohn:

The FCC’s conclusion that broadband is being deployed to all Americans on a reasonable and timely basis defies reality. Over the past six weeks it has become painfully apparent to the press, policymakers and the general public that tens of millions of Americans don’t have access to high-speed broadband Internet service. Yet Chairman Pai has decided that it’s time to take a victory lap even as millions of children cannot do their schoolwork, workers cannot telecommute and families cannot connect to friends, neighbors or each other during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The FCC’s report suffers from many flaws, but two especially warrant mention. The first is that once again the FCC relies upon data from broadband Internet access providers that bipartisan members of Congress and the agency itself admit grossly overstates the number of Americans with access to broadband. Second, the FCC stubbornly refuses to change the definition of broadband from 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed, a definition the Wheeler FCC set 5 years ago. Anyone who is telecommuting while their spouse does the same and their children engage in distance learning knows that 25/3 broadband is woefully inadequate. While the Chairman frequently boasts about the improvements in broadband speeds during his tenure, he and his Republican colleagues declined to set a new definition that reflects both those speeds and how Americans use broadband today.

Gigi Sohn is a Distinguished Fellow at the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law & Policy and a Benton Foundation Senior Fellow. She was Counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler from November 2013-December 2016 Gigi can be reached for comment at the above email or at 202-253-0876.  

The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.

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Kevin Taglang

Kevin Taglang
Executive Editor, Communications-related Headlines
Benton Institute
for Broadband & Society
727 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, IL 60202
headlines AT benton DOT org

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