broadbandThe annual FCC broadband progress report has generated controversy virtually every year since it was established, and the 2019 report is shaping up to be no exception.

The FCC yesterday released a notice of inquiry (NOI) seeking input on key parameters for next year’s report and raising the usual thorny questions including broadband speed definition and whether mobile service is a reasonable substitute for landline broadband.

FCC Broadband Progress Report
The NOI, adopted this week, proposes defining broadband to include service delivering speeds of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream, but also including information about the availability of 10/1 Mbps and 50/5 Mbps service.

The 25/3 Mbps broadband speed definition is the same one that has been used for several years. And one commissioner is arguing that this speed is too low.

“I fear that today’s inquiry sets the stage for an unfortunate repeat of last year’s Broadband Deployment Report,” wrote FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in a dissenting statement. That report found that broadband was being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner and according to Rosenworcel, it did so in error. She argued that 24 million Americans lack high-speed service, and that the report therefore  ignored “too many people in too many places struggling to access high-speed service.”

Rosenworcel argued that the speed definition for the FCC broadband progress report should be raised to 100 Mbps.

In general, broadband progress reports issued during Democratic administrations are more likely to find that broadband is not being deployed in a timely and reasonable fashion, while reports issued during Republican administrations tend to find that the pace of broadband deployment is timely and reasonable.

The NOI stops short of recommending that mobile broadband be considered a reasonable substitute for fixed service, instead asking for input on that issue and recommending that the report include data about the availability of mobile services supporting speeds of 5/1 Mbps and 10/3 Mbps.

The annual broadband progress report also includes information about the availability of broadband for elementary and secondary schools and classrooms. The NOI proposes retaining the current short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff and the long-term goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students and staff.

Image courtesy of flickr user Sean MacEntee.

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