Regulatory News – FCC Views Nationwide Broadband Deployment Cautiously

Posted:  09/2000

Regulatory News

FCC Views Nationwide Broadband Deployment Cautiously
By Kim Sunderland

While the nationwide deployment of advanced services has improved, the FCC still is concerned about pockets of communities at risk for not receiving the bounties of broadband.

Meanwhile, competitors are praising the FCC’s
( second report on broadband deployment as proof the
Telecommunications Act of 1996 is working.

“The data compiled for this second Section 706 report identify some promising trends,” Commissioner Susan Ness says “But our data also flag some very troubling trends: Some communities–especially those in rural and in economically disadvantages areas–are at risk of not receiving the same access as other areas.”

The FCC’s report concludes advanced telecom capability is being deployed “in a reasonable and timely fashion overall.”

Section 706 of the Telecom Act requires such FCC monitoring, which must present its report to Congress. The commission defines advanced capability as the availability of high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications that lets users send and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics and video using any technology.

The report’s data are based predominantly on the FCC’s first nationwide Broadband Survey of subscription to high-speed and advanced services. The survey required any facilities-based carrier providing 250 or more broadband service lines or wireless channels in a given state to report basic information about their service offerings and customers.

The survey data were compiled by zip codes. Providers were asked to report whether a single individual subscribed to broadband services within each zip code. The process left the commissioners unsatisfied.

“The available data do not provide a full and accurate picture of the state of deployment,” Commissioner Gloria Tristani explains. “The data… suffer from several weaknesses that undermine our ability to draw well-supported conclusions and to identify with specificity at-risk communities.”

Commissioners identified several groups as vulnerable of not having access to advanced services if deployment is left to market forces alone. They are:

  • Rural Americans, particularly those outside of population centers;
  • Inner-city consumers;
  • Low-income consumers;
  • Minority consumers; and
  • Tribal areas.

Overall the data show that as of Dec. 31, 1999, roughly 2.8 million subscribers nationwide received high-speed and advanced services. Of these subscribers, 1.8 million are residential or small business customers.

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