pai gigabit opportunity zonesFCC Chairman Ajit Pai has circulated a draft of the 2018 broadband deployment report to colleagues, highlighting that the regulatory agency wants to maintain the current broadband definition of fixed broadband speed: 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload.

Debate surrounding maintaining this 25 Mbps benchmark was quite contentious, with concerns that the FCC may have tried to lower it and equate mobile/wireless broadband with fixed wireline broadband, at least for the purpose of FCC reporting. Certain FCC programs, namely the Connect America Fund (CAF), allow for lower broadband benchmarks (10/1 Mbps) in certain situations.

Beyond maintaining the current broadband definition, the 2018 broadband deployment report said:

  • It is important to evaluate progress in deploying fixed broadband service as well as progress in deploying mobile broadband service.  Any analysis that only looked at the progress in deploying fixed broadband service or only looked at the progress in deploying mobile broadband service would be incomplete.
  • Analyzing broadband deployment progress is most consistent with the language of section 706.  The draft report finds that analyzing progress to determine whether deployment is occurring in a reasonable and timely fashion is the approach most consistent with the language of section 706.
  • Since the last report, the FCC has taken many steps to encourage broadband deployment.  The FCC has taken actions to reduce regulatory barriers to the deployment of wireline and wireless infrastructure, constituted a Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee to assist in these efforts, reformed the legacy high-cost universal service program to ensure accountability and introduce opportunities for new entrants through reverse auctions, modernized our rules for business data services to facilitate facilities-based competition, authorized new uses of wireless spectrum both terrestrially and in space.

The draft report concludes that the FCC is now meeting its statutory mandate to encourage the deployment of broadband on a reasonable and timely basis. However, the FCC added, the finding doesn’t change the regulatory agency’s commitment to close the digital divide.

“The draft report also concludes that mobile broadband service is not a full substitute for fixed service,” Pai said in a prepared statement. “Instead, it notes there are differences between the two technologies, including clear variations in consumer preferences and demands.  As a result, the draft 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 draft report 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, Pai added.