A recent article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) takes aim at the obsolescence of the FCC metrics for defining and maintaining standards of internet living. Founded in 1990, EFF says it’s been at the forefront of studying the future of broadband access in the highspeed market and has conducted in-depth research and produced both legal and technical publications on the issue.
In its February 5, 2020 filing before the FCC, EFF outlined how the wireline broadband market in the United States has stagnated. The report said, “Despite a backdrop of recent deregulation ostensibly designed to facilitate infrastructure investment, the reality remains that consumers have few, if any, choices for high-speed internet. Over 80 percent of rural census blocks are denied even the option to purchase such speeds, and 53 percent of all census blocks have no provider offering speeds above a meager 50 Mbps. Over 24 million Americans still lack any choice of provider at all.”
Open Technology Institute recently reported the United States has the most expensive and slowest broadband networks amongst advanced economies. “Our median upload speed today is 15 Mbps while the EU is at 40 Mbps, and Asia enjoys an eye-popping 500 Mbps due to an aggressive fiber policy,” the report stated.
Although the FCC’s metric for defining “high-speed” is 25 Mbps per second download and 3 Mbps per second upload, EFF argues that those standards, set in 2015, no longer support the needs of internet users. According to EFF, Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires an annual assessment of the state of broadband deployment in America.
“Rather than wait an indeterminate amount of time before the FCC is willing to acknowledge the United States has a real problem, it should be baked into the process that every two to three years we assess what level of broadband is needed to meet the growth in consumption,” stated EFF. “It should be done with publicly available data that measures user behavior. Five years and counting is an abysmally long time to wait.”
The report further stated, “There are no good reasons why the United States is not a world leader in broadband. Efforts are underway, such as the House of Representatives’ universal fiber plan and state efforts to create fiber infrastructure programs, that will reestablish our leadership. But so long as we hold onto useless metrics like the 25/3 federal definition of broadband as the means to determine our progress, we will never even take the first step.”
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