FCC Commissioners' Statements on 2018 Broadband Deployment Report

Chairman Pai: "The report maintains the same benchmark speed for fixed broadband service previously adopted by the Commission, which we earlier proposed to retain: 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload. The report also concludes that mobile broadband service is not a full substitute for fixed service. Instead, it notes there are differences between the two technologies, including clear variations in consumer preferences and demands. As a result, the report evaluates progress in deploying fixed broadband service as well as progress in deploying mobile broadband service and takes a holistic approach to evaluating the deployment of these services. The report also indicates that the pace of both fixed and mobile broadband deployment declined dramatically in the two years following the prior Commission’s Title II Order. However, the report also discusses how, over the course of the past year, the current Commission has taken steps to reduce barriers to infrastructure investment and promote competition in the broadband marketplace. Taken together, these policies indicate that the current FCC is now meeting its statutory mandate to encourage the deployment of broadband on a reasonable and timely basis."

Commissioner O'Rielly: "Fundamentally, the question that this item must answer is “whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.”1 By any account, the picture with regards to the availability of advanced telecommunications services (i.e., broadband) is very robust and growing. In examining the data, it indicates that 95.6 percent of all Americans have access to fixed broadband with speeds exceeding the 25/3 Mbps threshold that was set by the last Commission.2 And this excludes consumers that have service at or above 10/1 Mbps, which is a standard supported by my fellow Commissioners for purposes of our universal service High-Cost programs. Moreover, this report reflects a snapshot in time from over one year ago, meaning that deployment is actually more extensive today, as broadband providers have further expanded their networks and/or reach since that time period. To argue that deployment is not sufficient to meet the statutory test ignores the wording of the law and its context. At no point should – and the statute doesn’t require – the standard for a positive finding to be 100 percent, perfection. Instead, a finding should be positive as long as deployment is “reasonable and timely.” That is, the provision focuses on year-to-year progress, not achieving a particular threshold any given year."

Commissioner Carr: "Reading Section 706 as directing the Commission to determine whether advanced telecommunications capability has been deployed to all Americans, as the FCC has in past Reports, reads the 'reasonable and timely' language out of the statute and is inconsistent with Congress’s use of the present progressive tense 'is being deployed.' This conclusion is further reinforced by the language Congress used for FCC inquiries that result in a negative determination. In such cases, Congress states that the Commission 'shall take immediate action to accelerate deployment,' thus confirming Congress’s focus in Section 706 on the pace of deployment and the progress that providers are making. As a policy matter, it makes sense that Congress would task the Commission with this type of progress-based inquiry. Assessing the pace at which advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed provides far more—and more helpful—information than a binary inquiry into whether or not all Americans already have access to such capability. But of course, the Commission’s approach to Section 706 during the prior Administration did not reflect fealty to the statutory text as much as an interest in expanding the scope of the Commission’s authority."

Commissioner Clyburn: "The statistics are glaringly clear: persistent digital and opportunities divides remain for far too many in our nation. With respect to fixed 25 Mbps/3 Mbps and 10 Mbps/3 Mbps mobile LTE, approximately 44 million Americans lack access to both services. A whopping 66.2% of Americans living in rural and Tribal areas—as compared to 2.1% of Americans living in urban areas—still lack access to fixed 25/3 broadband. These are tens of millions of our fellow citizens who lack access to broadband putting them at a severe disadvantage when it comes to robust opportunities in education, healthcare, government services, and civic participation. Instead of grappling with this unfortunate reality, this report blatantly suggests that Congress did not intend for the FCC to meet a rigid requirement that each and every American be served. Pardon me? Congress’ intent when it comes to these reports could not have been any clearer. The plain language of Section 706 states 'the Commission shall determine whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.' Similarly, the Broadband Data Improvement Act of 2008 requires the Commission to consider a plethora of factors and 'compile a list of geographical areas that are not served by any provider of advanced telecommunications capability.' Those statutes clearly mandate that the Commission determine if broadband is being deployed to all Americans."

Commissioner Rosenworcel: "There are also many facts in this Broadband Deployment Report, but what stands out most is a single finding. This report concludes that in the United States the deployment of broadband to all Americans is reasonable and timely. This is ridiculous—and irresponsible. Today there are 24 million Americans without access to broadband. There are 19 million Americans in rural areas who lack the ability to access high-speed services at home. There are 12 million school-aged children who are falling into the Homework Gap because they do not have the broadband at home they need for nightly schoolwork. Ask any one of them if they think the deployment of the most essential digital age infrastructure is reasonable and timely and you will get a resounding 'No.' To call these numbers a testament to our national success is insulting and not credible."

Chairman Pai Commissioner O'Rielly Commissioner Carr Commissioner Clyburn Commissioner Rosenworcel