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Should the Government Ensure Fast Home Internet Service for All Americans?

by Countable | 8.16.17

What’s the Story?

The Federal Communications Commission under the Trump Administration has taken a position against expanding or enhancing at-home internet access or speeds due to the increasing use of mobile phones with access to the Internet.

Why Does it Matter?

As explained by technoblog ArsTechnica, Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act "requires the FCC to determine whether broadband (or more formally, ‘advanced telecommunications capability’) is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion." If the FCC finds it is not, they’re required by law to “take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market.”

All of these changes were outlined in a recent FCC Notice of Inquiry (NOI). In it, the Commission asks for comments from the public) about whether mobile access is a replacement for fast broadband service.

During the previous two administrations (W. Bush and Obama), the FCC had sought to expand internet access. And last year, the FCC concluded that Americans need home *and *mobile data access.

But now that Trump’s nominee Ajit Pai is in charge of the FCC, the Commission "seems poised to change that policy by declaring that mobile broadband with speeds of 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream is all one needs." As ArsTechnica explained, in doing this “the FCC could conclude that broadband is already being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion [via cell-phones], and thus the commission could take fewer steps to promote deployment and competition.”

The 10Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads is less than half as fast as the FCC’s current benchmark for broadband, which is 25Mbps/3Mbps.

Democrats, meanwhile, have vowed to "make make it a national priority to bring high-speed Internet to every corner of America" as part of their “Better Deal” platform.They say it’s necessary to “give working Americans the tools to succeed in the 21st Century.”

NOI comments on the FCC site have thus far leaned heavily towards the status quo: ensuring fast at-home access to the internet.

"I do a lot of work from home, and restricting home Broadband access basically makes my work impossible to do," wrote Zachery Hysong. “I need high upload limits, as well as stable connections for downloads that Mobile 4G simply does not allow!”

Kawika Heftel shared similar sentiments: "10 mbps internet on my phone can in NO WAY replace a broadband home connection. Fast internet is essential for so many things from paying bills to banking to job applications, it's basically a utility. Not to mention I work from home. How the hell am I supposed to do videoconferencing with my coworkers on my phone???"

As for Pai’s comment on the matter, in 2012, during his first year on the Commission, he said, "[T]he Commission has consistently ignored in recent years the statute's direction that ‘advanced telecommunications capability’ may be deployed ‘using any technology.’"

Mignon Clyburn, a Democratic FCC commissioner, joined the public in filing a NOI statement: "Consumers who are mobile only often find themselves in such a position, not by choice but because they cannot afford a fixed connection… Mobile and fixed broadband are complements, not substitutes. They are very different in terms of both the nuts and bolts of how the networks operate, and how they are marketed to customers, including both from the perspective of speed and data usage."

What Do You Think?

Is mobile internet access an acceptable replacement for at-home internet? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think. Then head over to the FCC and share your thoughts.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: Lightcome via iStock)

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