Today, 95% of all Americans have access to at least 4 Mbps broadband Internet – something unheard of a decade ago. 59% of Americans use a laptop or mobile phone with a wireless connection to get online. Well over three-quarters of Americans have access to 3G wireless Internet, with a choice of multiple providers. And amidst this development, the price to access the Internet has dropped by 23 percent since 2004, while overall consumer prices went up.
Yet, this week the Federal Communications Commission issued its Sixth Annual Broadband Deployment Report (PDF), concluding all of this success “is not reasonable and timely.” By what measurement? Since 2005, telecommunications and IT companies have invested $576 billion into building out infrastructure, which now accounts for almost half of non-infrastructure investment. Since 2003, Internet service providers have dropped $27 billion per year into expanding and improving networks. I'd say that's a reasonable amount of investment.
The FCC’s latest broadband report is hollow rhetoric. It was manufactured for the sole use of bashing Internet service providers simply to justify the Commission’s unnecessary and burdensome scheme to regulate the Internet. It predictably follows the same strategy as the FCC’s wireless report from May that is being used to justify further regulations.
Instead of changing the facts (many of which the FCC helpfully supplies), FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski simply ignored them. Though, the Commission completely changed the metric for defining “high-speed Internet” to a minimum of 4 Mbps speed (which, George Ou points out, is almost twice the necessary speed to stream 720P video content online). Further, only in a footnote and the two dissenting statements of Commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker does it mention the fact that over 95% of Americans already have 4 Mbps broadband Internet access. This is something the Commission highlighted just months ago in their National Broadband Plan, but suspiciously ignored here.
Instead, I would argue the FCC’s conclusion “is not reasonable and timely.” The Commission ignored multiple indicators that broadband Internet speeds, access, adoption, and investment are on the rise. The report was released in the middle of the FCC’s proceeding to impose onerous regulations on the Internet and was clearly intended to justify their baseless policy goals. As we’ve mentioned before (here, here, and here), these regulations will have a disastrous impact on broadband expansion – something that certainly won’t help the remaining 5% of American households without high-speed broadband connect to the Internet any faster. And if they don’t get online, expect the FCC to double-down with misguided reports and regulations to "fix" that too.