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Rarely has an agency exhibited a greater degree of schizophrenia than the FCC did last week, when it issued its Eighth Broadband Progress Report (Broadband Report) and its Special Access Report and Order. One decries the lack of broadband access for the 6 percent of the U.S. population that lives in the most sparsely populated areas. The other encourages America’s largest enterprises to perpetuate their use of non-broadband networks throughout the U.S.
On the one hand, in its Broadband Report, the FCC refuses to tell Congress that our country’s broadband deployment is reasonable and timely, despite access by 94 percent of Americans to high-speed broadband, defined as download at 4 megabit per second (Mbps) and upload at 1 Mbps (4/1) over wired networks. The FCC’s key reasons are:
First, 19 million Americans, i.e. 6 percent of the population, scattered across two-thirds of the U.S. land mass, lack access to wired 4/1 broadband connection.
Second, broadband adoption by consumers is too low--only 40 percent have chosen to adopt broadband at 4/1 speed or higher. Chairman Genachowski’s statement in the Broadband Order sets high goals: “We need to see ongoing increases in broadband speed and capacity, so that we’re routinely talking about gigabits, not megabits.”
On the other hand, in its Special Access Order, the FCC suspends its rules governing pricing flexibility in the special-access market. This is a market that the FCC sizes at $12 billion, providing mostly 1.5 Mbps connections, mostly to large enterprises and government but also to some small businesses.
Chairman Genachowski notes in his statement explaining the suspension: “As one group of businesses, including representatives from the financial services, automotive, manufacturing, insurance, aerospace, package delivery, information technology, and transportation industries, told us, ‘special access services [are] the building blocks of our corporate services’.”
These businesses are asking for lower prices on these 1.5 Mbps services, because they want to continue to use them in perpetuity.
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