Tier 2 cable service provider Cable One says it provides broadband service in 338 census blocks where an unnamed price cap carrier claims there is no broadband. The information was part of a filing made by the American Cable Association, which represents smaller U.S. cable companies.
According to the ACA, similar data was submitted by several other members, including Armstrong Utilities, Massillon Cable TV, and Nittany Media. In some cases “these companies are providing broadband at speeds up to 20 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream, contrary to assertions by CenturyLink that these locations were unserved,” said the ACA in an announcement about the filing.
Connect America Fund Phase 1
The ACA made its filing in response to a notice of further proposed rulemaking issued by the FCC in November, which asked stakeholders how to distribute $185 million from Phase 1 of the Connect America Fund to network operators to help support the cost of bringing broadband service to areas that cannot get broadband today. The FCC has recommended that the money be made available to incumbent price cap carriers who previously turned down the funding based on the parameters originally specified by the FCC. The cable companies have argued that they too should have a crack at obtaining funding.
When the FCC issued the FNPRM it noted that data from the National Broadband Map would be used in determining areas eligible for Connect America funding. At that time the commission noted that some stakeholders had expressed concerns that some of the map data was inaccurate. The FCC said it would resolve any disputes about whether an area was served or unserved.
It appears the FCC will have to make many such determinations, as the ACA is just one of several stakeholders that have questioned the accuracy of the National Broadband Map.
The cable companies do not appear to be claiming that they have made broadband available to every home within disputed areas. Nevertheless the ACA said in a press release about its filing that the organization “strongly opposes any change to the FCC’s current rule on the ability of supported carriers to provide service in census blocks partially served by competitive providers.”
Cable Broadband Network Expansion
By way of explanation, the ACA said “competitive providers are constantly expanding their networks, including deploying broadband service to unserved locations.”
The organization noted, for example, that cable companies are often called upon to bring fiber to cellsites to provide mobile backhaul for wireless carrier customers – and as that occurs, the availability of fiber can decrease the cost of deploying broadband in areas “proximate to” wireless towers, often eliminating the need for support through a government-operated program.
In the announcement about the comment filing, the ACA also asked the FCC to reject a proposal by CenturyLink and USTelecom which according to the ACA is “designed to increase significantly the number of locations eligible to be served using Phase 1 Connect America funding.”
This may be a reference to a proposal from CenyturyLink that aims to enable the telco to use Connect America funding in areas served by wireless ISPs, whose service according to CenturyLink is not as reliable as a landline-based alternative.