It appears that the under the leadership of current Chairman Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now leaning towards favoring Internet service providers (ISPs) more than the consumers. By way of a Notice of Inquiry (read the portable document format version here), the agency is proposing that both fixed and wireless are to be counted as “broadband” based on Section 706 of its regulations. The current rule being followed right now was the standard that was set by the FCC under former Chair Tom Wheeler. That standard requires timely deployment of both wired and wireless networks in the country. But that might change soon.
The FCC has also taken the opportunity to propose that if wireless carriers are providing this “broadband,” people only need to have 10 mbps download speeds and 1 mbps upload speeds. Those numbers are less than half of the 25 mbps download speeds and 3 mbps upload speeds that are required in order to be considered as broadband. In addition to this, the Notice of Inquiry also suggests that home connection speeds should remains as they are now.
Back in 2015, Wheeler’s FCC had increased broadband requirements from the previous 4 mbps / 1 mbps download and upload speeds to the current standard, which is at 25 mbps / 3 mbps download and upload speeds. At that time, US was ranked outside of the top twenty in the world in terms of Internet speeds. By the time the new standard was implemented a couple of years ago, America’s ranking has improved to 10th across the globe.
According to Pai’s FCC, the “statutory language” grants it the right to re-categorize wireless and land transmission under the broadband category. As stated in Section 706, advanced telecoms are defined as “high speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability that enables users to originate and receive high quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications using any technology.” The FCC further pointed out that 13 percent of US consumers solely depend on smartphone devices in order to connect to the information superhighway, and through its Notice of Inquiry, it is looking to receive feedback on whether it should carefully review the deployment of fixed and wireless broadband as separate, and also evaluate various means in which it can usher in advanced telecommunications capability. The Notice of Inquiry welcomes feedback through this link until September 7th, with reply comments due by September 22nd.
For mobile service providers, installing wireless networks and not worrying about broadband is less costly. Building out wireless networks is considerably less expensive than installing a fiber optic network in a rural location, for instance. But it bears noting that wireless networks do not always suit the specific Internet related requirements of consumers and even enterprises, due to connection speeds that vary wildly, limits on data usage, and absence of free tethering, among many other issues.
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