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CenturyLink, USTelecom Blast FCC Broadband Report

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In many urban areas of the United States, Americans seeking high-speed connectivity to the Internet have a number of options that include wireless broadband, cable-modem service, satellite and fiber via the local phone companies.

But the Federal Communications Commission has concluded “broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion,” a finding that was announced Thursday and drew criticism from the telecommunications industry. Regulators must report annually on whether the above criteria have been satisfied based on a directive in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

In a news release summarizing its 2016 Broadband Progress Report, the FCC noted 34 million American, or 10 percent, of the population don’t have access to the agency’s benchmark for broadband service: at least 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploading content. What’s more, about 40 percent of people residing in rural areas and tribal lands don’t have high-speed access under that same criteria, the FCC said. By contrast, only 4 percent of urban Americans lack broadband access at those same speeds, according to the report.{ad}

“The report concludes that more work needs to be done by the private and public sectors to expand robust broadband to all Americans in a timely way,” the FCC noted. “The FCC will continue working to accelerate broadband deployment and to remove barriers to infrastructure investment, in part by direct subsidies, and in part by identifying and helping to reduce obstacles to deployment, competition and adoption.”

The FCC’s conclusion is not credible, according to the United States Telecom Association (USTelecom).

“It is unfortunate that the Federal Communications Commission’s annual broadband report seems to have become a cynical, fact-starved exercise with a conclusion that is contrived to justify a continuing expansion of regulatory authority,” a spokesperson for the trade association said in a statement. “Given the $78 billion in annual private-sector investment and the billions in USF [Universal Service Fund] support that is being used to extend broadband to remote parts of the county, it is ludicrous to say that broadband deployment in the United States is unreasonable – and no one really believes it.”

John Jones, CenturyLink’s senior vice president for public policy and government relations, also criticized the FCC’s report.  

“The FCC has so many definitions of broadband that it’s hard for us, and for consumers, to keep track of a moving target,” he said in a statement. “The commission’s latest broadband progress report ignores the billions of dollars we invest annually to provide high-speed Internet service, under whatever definition the FCC uses, that our customers want and need.” 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler approved the report, as did commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn. All three regulators are Democrats. Ajit Pai, a Republican, concurred with the report, while fellow Republican Michael O’Rielly dissented.


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