Lawmakers to FCC: Do Not Weaken Broadband Internet Standards for Americans

Several Minnesota Legislators on this list…

Washington, D.C.- Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA), Senator Al Franken (D-MN), and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rick Nolan (D-MN), and Keith Ellison (D-MN) sent a bicameral letter today to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai opposing his efforts to lower broadband Internet standards for millions of Americans.

The letter comes in response to a recent Notice of Inquiry that suggested the FCC will consider significantly lowering national advanced broadband standards from the current level of 25 Mbps download / 3 Mbps upload down to 10 Mbps download / 1 Mbps upload. Additionally, the FCC is contemplating a finding that Internet access through a cellphone plan is a sufficient substitute for fixed broadband at home.

“As you well know, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to economic development, public safety, and a vibrant quality of life. Ensuring every home, school, and business has adequate access to the Internet is essential to unlocking the innovative potential of all Americans …” wrote the lawmakers. Simply moving the goalposts is not a policy solution, and weakening the definition of high speed internet is a disservice to the rural and tribal communities the FCC has an obligation to serve.”

The changes currently contemplated could immediately result in reduced connection reliability and Internet speeds for rural, tribal, and low-income communities in every state. In 2016, according to the FCC, 39% of rural America and 41% of those living on tribal land lacked access to advanced broadband, which is defined as 25 Mbps/3 Mbps under current FCC policy.

“At this time, mobile access at 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload is not a reasonable replacement for fixed advanced broadband at home. This fact is well known to any child seeking to complete a homework assignment, small business owner hoping to develop an Internet presence, or individual completing an online job application or communicating with their doctor,” added the members of Congress in today’s letter.

In addition to Reps. Huffman, Pocan, Nolan, Ellison, and Senator Franken (D-MN), the letter was signed by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), as well as Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-IL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), John Conyers (D-MI), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Peter Welch (D-VT), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), John Lewis (D-GA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Michael Doyle (D-PA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Darren Soto (D-FL), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Timothy Walz (D-MN), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), John Yarmuth (D-KY).

The letter is supported by Public Knowledge and Communications Workers of America.

You can read more about Rep. Huffman’s work to increase access to broadband for every Americans here.

The full text of the letter can be found here or below.

The Honorable Ajit Pai
Chairman
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20554

Dear Chairman Pai:

We write in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) request for comment in the recent Notice of Inquiry (NOI) “Concerning Deployment of Advanced Telecommunications Capability to All Americans in a Reasonable and Timely Fashion” (GN Docket No. 17-199). We are gravely concerned that the policies contemplated by this NOI could undo significant progress and investment by the FCC and Congress to ensure that all Americans have access to reliable, high-speed broadband. Specifically, we strongly oppose any proposal to lower speeds from the current standard of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload to 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps or to find mobile broadband as a universally appropriate replacement for fixed, home broadband.

As you well know, reliable, high-speed broadband is essential to economic development, public safety, and a vibrant quality of life. Ensuring every home, school, and business has adequate access to the Internet is essential to unlocking the innovative potential of all Americans. However, as the annual section 706 broadband report demonstrates, our nation’s rural and tribal communities continue to lag behind urban America and much of the developed world when it comes to broadband access, speed, and reliability. As the FCC has noted, thirty-nine percent of rural America and forty-one percent of those on Tribal land lack access to advanced broadband.

The FCC has a statutory obligation to take steps to deploy broadband that supports high-quality telecommunications capability to all Americans in a reasonable and timely manner. The policy changes contemplated by this NOI would run counter to the intent of Congress by attempting to fulfill that statutory obligation through definitional changes, rather than concrete action to connect more Americans online. Simply moving the goalposts is not a policy solution, and weakening the definition of high speed internet is a disservice to the rural and tribal communities the FCC has an obligation to serve.

In particular, we are concerned with any effort to weaken the FCC’s current policy finding that every American should have access to broadband services with speeds of at least 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload. Finding instead that only mobile service of 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload is sufficient would result in significantly slower and less reliable Internet access for millions of Americans, particularly those with low incomes or those living in rural and tribal communities. At this time, mobile access at 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload is not a reasonable replacement for fixed advanced broadband at home. This fact is well known to any child seeking to complete a homework assignment, small business owner hoping to develop an Internet presence, or individual completing an online job application or communicating with their doctor.

We strongly urge you to maintain the highest connectivity standards, which are critical to the FCC’s statutory obligation to support high-quality telecommunications capability to all Americans.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments.

Sincerely,

This entry was posted in FCC, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s