Agency finally takes off their rose-colored glasses.
As we've complained about for years, the FCC has traditionally made broadband policy decisions based on flawed and incomplete data. Part of the 1996 Telecom Act required that the agency release quarterly reports on the status of broadband deployment. Unfortunately for consumers, that data has always been essentially useless -- with the FCC declaring any zip code that has just one served broadband customer
in it to be "wired" for service. This rose-colored-glasses methodology has dictated FCC policy for years.
Our new, more "sciency" FCC is slowly changing that, doing things like actually testing user connections
instead of just taking ISP lobbyists at the word in terms of delivered speeds. The FCC's also been studying broadband availability in more detail, and today released their conclusions (see pdf news release
and the .doc full study
). The report ditches the inaccurate zip code determination, and takes the long-overdue step of bumping the minimum definition of broadband from just 200 kbps, to at least 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.
According to the new, real-data-loving FCC, between 14 and 24 million Americans still lack access to broadband -- with the FCC declaring the chance of them getting it anytime soon to be "bleak." The FCC also found that less than half of all broadband connections are capable of receiving a high definition video stream (even fewer, 2%, can transmit such a stream).
"Taking account of the millions of Americans who, despite years of waiting, still have little prospect of getting broadband deployed to their homes, we must conclude that broadband is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion," stated FCC chief Julius Genachowski in a statement.
Of course admitting you have a problem is only the first step to recovery, and unsurprisingly the FCC recommends a list of things to fix the problem they're already doing. Most of those things are part of the fairly underwhelming national broadband plan
, including freeing up more spectrum, fixing the USF, collecting better data, and streamlining access to poles and rights of way. Also like our national broadband plan, the report pays fleeting lip service to broadband competition, but none of the recommendations do much in the way of actually improving it.