House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today commented on a recent report from the Federal Communications Commission concluding that broadband is not being deployed in a "reasonable and timely" fashion. Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act requires an annual assessment of broadband availability and deployment. However, the FCC has also cited Section 706 to attempt to justify its authority to regulate the Internet if it finds deployment is not fast enough.
"It's difficult to understand how an objective look at the facts can lead the FCC to conclude that our progress on broadband is lacking. Congress has tasked the Commission in section 706 with examining the "availability' and "deployment' of high-speed broadband, and the numbers don't lie. Even the FCC has confessed that wired broadband is available to 95 percent of Americans and that wireless broadband is available to 98 percent. This doesn't even account for new satellite broadband offerings, which the FCC has recognized as a potentially efficient way of ensuring universal coverage. Even the small percent of homes that don't have access is shrinking. Last year the FCC estimated that 8.9 million out of 130 million households did not have high-speed broadband available; using the same analysis, the FCC itself estimates that number has dropped to 4.6 million.
"On deployment, industry invested $66 billion last year, $3 billion more than the previous year. Over the past 8 years, broadband providers have invested more than half a trillion dollars to upgrade their networks. America is now the world leader in wireless LTE network deployment. And although the Broadband Deployment Report is supposed to be about availability and deployment--not subscribership--even those numbers show the tremendous progress our nation has made: Using a more traditional definition of broadband, the number of American households with broadband grew from 51 million in June 2006 to 79 million in 2008 and more than 130 million in 2010. If anything, broadband subscribership has been accelerating over the past two years, not slowing down.
"It is one thing to recognize that some areas of the country--typically rural--are difficult to serve; it is quite another to say that broadband is not being reasonably and timely deployed to all Americans. The former only requires the FCC to consider reform of the Universal Service Fund; the latter is a claimed excuse to impose network neutrality and to further regulate the Internet."