FCC drawing clearer distinction between fixed and mobile broadband

28 January 2016 by Steve Blum
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Tarzan say wireline good mobile solution.

“Immediate action” on advanced broadband deployment is apparently on the table at today’s Federal Communication Commission meeting. That’s the gist of a fact sheet released by chairman Tom Wheeler ahead of a vote on the commission’s 2016 broadband progress report.

The fact sheet lays out the problem – “approximately 34 million Americans still lack access to fixed broadband at the FCC’s benchmark speed of 25 Mbps for downloads, 3 Mbps for uploads” – but doesn’t offer any concrete actions or policy changes for fixing it. That’s consistent with the FCC’s practice of avoiding public scrutiny of proposed actions until after the decision is made. When last report was considered, though, one of the results was the adoption of the 25 down/3 up standard, which has proven useful as a policy tool here in California. We’ll have to wait to see what this year’s report brings.

Another useful finding detailed in the fact sheet is a clear distinction between fixed and mobile service: one isn’t a substitute for the other and both are needed…

  • Advanced telecommunications capability requires access to both fixed and mobile broadband o Fixed and mobile service offer distinct functions meeting both complementary and distinct needs
  • Fixed broadband offers high-speed, high-capacity connections capable of supporting bandwidth-intensive uses, such as streaming video, by multiple users in a household.
  • But fixed broadband can’t provide consumers with the mobile Internet access required to support myriad needs outside the home and while working remotely.
  • Mobile devices provide access to the web while on the go, and are especially useful for real-time two-way interactions, mapping applications, and social media
  • But consumers who rely solely on mobile broadband tend to perform a more limited range of tasks and are significantly more likely to incur additional usage fees or forgo use of the Internet.

It could be that today’s decision won’t go any further than this general policy statement, or there could be something more specific. We’ll have to wait for the vote and then for FCC staff to get around to publishing the report. Maybe later today, maybe not.