The FCC just launched its annual inquiry into whether broadband – or “advanced telecommunications capability” – is being deployed to all Americans in a “reasonable and timely fashion”. The 2017 version of this inquiry has a few twists to it. Instead of focusing on fixed broadband as they have in the past, this time the FCC is asking if its broadband deployment report should focus on whether some form of advanced telecommunications capability, be it fixed or wireless, is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.
Looking at my smartphone as my broadband option is frankly not sufficient. Today was a great case in point when I did my usual Saturday morning stop in the gym. I listen to music during much of my workout but use my time on the cross trainer to catch up on the news with the TVs in the front of the gym (I have a pretty low-class gym that does not have tvs on each piece of equipment) but today, the location of the TVs didn’t matter because due to construction in the mall, no signals for the cable networks were available so the screens were dark.. No worries- I decided that I would use my cross trainer time to catch up on emails. Looking down at my IPhone, I noticed that I was only getting the buffering circle of death….in the middle of Arlington, Virginia, my wireless access was not working. Well, it was back to music but it certainly brought home that wireless is a critical mobile option but certainly not the same as the capacity, speed and reliability of a wired network.
It’s important for policy makers to remember that there is a difference between “reasonably comparable” under the USF (which requires urban and rural to get roughly the same) and the notion of sufficient advancement under Section 706, whose intent is to ensure that everyone has access to some service. Two different standards, two different purposes.