Reactions to the FCC's 2019 Broadband Deployment Report

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Here's the reaction to the FCC's 2019 Broadband Deployment Report.

Benton Foundation Executive Director Adrianne Furniss said: There is an old joke about a drunk man searching for his keys under a streetlight and when asked if that’s where he lost them, he answers, ‘No, but this is where the light is.’ Unfortunately, we can’t make light of the FCC’s latest broadband report which arrives at a crucial conclusion using, by its own admission, flawed data. Many may argue that the FCC came to the wrong conclusion; others will say that it is correct. But the point is: How can the FCC come to any conclusion when it knows the information it is basing its decision on is flawed? Recently, the FCC majority has engaged in legal gymnastics to change the standard the FCC uses to comply with its annual obligation to report to Congress on the state of broadband deployment in the U.S. Perhaps we should ask Chairman Ajit Pai and Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendon Carr these simple questions: Do you live in a home that cannot access broadband? If you did, would you still agree that broadband is being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis? That is the conclusion these commissioners are asking 21.3 million Americans to come to. That is unacceptable. Let's stop making decisions in the dark."

Benton Senior Fellow Gigi Sohn said: "The FCC's 2019 Broadband Deployment Report is hopelessly flawed and cannot be the basis for future policymaking. Nor does it validate Chairman Pai’s unsubstantiated claims that his policies have helped to close the digital divide. There is bipartisan and near universal agreement that the FCC’s method for determining how many Americans have broadband vastly overstates broadband deployment and access. That method allows a broadband provider to claim that any area where it could provide service is one where it does provide service. And if one person in a census block has access to broadband, then everyone in that census block has access to broadband.  The FCC should complete its long-pending proceeding to change the methodology by which carriers measure broadband access. First, it should require that broadband providers report only on those Americans they actually serve, rather than taking credit for serving those places they could serve. Second, the FCC should require providers to measure access on an address level. Since providers know which homes they serve, such measurement shouldn’t be complicated. Third, it should require providers to list non-introductory prices on their Form 477. Finally, the FCC should work to validate industry’s numbers through other methods like crowdsourcing and measurement from other sources. Only then will the FCC and other agencies have the information they need to engage in smart and effective policymaking necessary to ensure that all Americans are connected."

Communications Justice Fellow at Public Knowledge Alisa Valentin said:  “The FCC has yet again given themselves a pat on the back for ‘narrowly closing’ the digital divide in the 2019 broadband deployment report all while millions of Americans are still unserved and underserved. The FCC issued this report despite flawed self-reported data that drastically overestimated which communities are connected to this essential service. If we fail to accurately identify who has access to broadband in America, we will fail to find proper policy solutions for closing the digital divide. This lackadaisical approach to understanding the breadth of the digital divide will result in widening disparities in education, healthcare, and economic opportunity. This is a complete disservice to communities of color, rural communities, and low-income communities who can’t afford to be left behind in the digital age; our country deserves more. This is about accountability. If the FCC truly wants to avoid ‘waste, fraud, and abuse’ then the Broadband Deployment Report should serve as the premier data source for understanding what consumers are unserved and underserved. The Commission is in dire need of an overhaul of Form 477, which is the data used as the primary basis for the Broadband Deployment Report. The agency itself admits that the form isn’t perfect but chooses to address how to improve data collection at a later date. In order to understand the digital divide, consumers need access to accurate pricing data and information about actual eeds and not just advertised speeds. Without these reforms, we will be here next year looking at yet another questionable report.”

Questions about the report go beyond any one error. “There’s overstatement already baked into the system,” says Matt Wood, vice president of policy and general counsel at Free Press.

Reactions to the FCC's 2019 Broadband Deployment Report Benton Questions FCC Conclusions Based on Flawed Broadband Data Gigi Sohn Statement on FCC Release of 2019 Broadband Deployment Report Public Knowledge Warns Broadband Report Not Based on Quality Data Experts are furious over the FCC’s rosy picture of broadband access (Vox)