The Benton Institute reports…
US Telecom — a lobbying group with members including AT&T, Verizon, and Frontier — is fighting against higher Internet speeds in a US subsidy program for rural areas without good broadband access. The Federal Communications Commission’s plan for the next version of its rural-broadband fund sets 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload as the “baseline” tier. Internet service providers seem to be onboard with that baseline level for the planned Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. But the FCC also plans to distribute funding for two higher-speed tiers: namely an “above-baseline” level of 100Mbps down and 20Mbps up, and a “gigabit performance” tier of 1Gbps down and 500Mbps up. It’s the above-baseline tier of 100Mbps/20Mbps that providers object to—they either want the FCC to lower that tier’s upload speeds or create an additional tier that would be faster than baseline but slower than above-baseline. The above-baseline tier’s upload target should be 10Mbps instead of 20Mbps, according to an FCC filing on Dec 23 by USTelecom.
Two groups that represent smaller ISPs urged the FCC to reject calls for slower speeds. NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association and ACA Connects (formerly the American Cable Association) pointed out in a filing that the Connect America Fund Phase II auction already included a 100Mbps/20Mbps tier. “It would be remarkable ‘backsliding’ indeed from the CAF Phase II auction to adopt lesser standards—such as lower upstream speeds or entirely new, lower speed tiers—for an auction that will be conducted at least two years later and will distribute funds into the early 2030s,” NCTA and the ACA wrote. “Rather than closing the digital divide, USTelecom’s proposal will only widen it.”
To put this in Minnesota perspective, the state speeds goals are to get to ubiquitous coverage at speeds of 25/3 by 2022 and to speeds of 100/20 by 2026. And in the first meeting of the latest iteration of the MN Broadband Task Force, members talked about reviewing those speeds goals.