The FCC still has around $185 million out of the $300 million broadband funds available from phase one of their Connect America Fund, dedicated to shoring up broadband coverage gaps. While companies like Frontier took $71.9 million to wire some 92,000 homes
, other companies like Windstream balked at taking full funding, saying that getting $775 per install wasn't enough for their liking
. In the hopes of getting more takers, the FCC wants to change the threshold for what constitutes an "unserved" region from 3 Mbps / 768 kbps to 6 Mbps / 1.5 Mbps.
The American Cable Association (ACA), which primarily represents smaller cable operators, is apparently mad about this potential change
because it would mean that more of their struggling telco competitors would be getting subsidies:
The ACA, however, wants to keep the proxy requirement at 3Mbit/s downstream and 768kbit/s upstream, arguing that cable's Docsis technology means services with speeds advertised at the lower rate are likely to deliver actual speeds of 4 Mbit/s downstream and 1Mbit/s upstream.
"The FCC should protect the public by ensuring that broadband deployment subsidies do not result in significant government-supported overbuilding, which would cause real harm to cable operators that have invested only private capital," ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said.
With AT&T and Verizon walking away from DSL entirely
and most smaller telcos either too cash-strapped, unmotivated or incompetent to upgrade their networks, cable operators have fairly sweet sailing the next decade or so given the relatively inexpensive cost of DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades and the feeble state of competition. In short, they have the phone companies over a barrel -- and they certainly don't want taxpayer cash changing that equation.
All of that said, it's unfortunate that while industry press and overall rhetoric focuses on our quest to hit speeds of 1 Gbps -- the unsexy reality on the ground is that we're struggling to offer even 3-6 Mbps to millions of Americans.