In a step toward an inevitable redefining of broadband for everyone, the FCC has decreed that broadband service providers receiving money from the Connect America Fund must deliver a minimum of 10 Mbps on the downstream, and 1 Mbps on the upstream.
Up to $1.8 billion of funding is currently available each year in the Connect America Fund.
The Federal Communications Commission is directed by Congress to assure that rural communications services are reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.
Ten Mbps is the same speed available to 99 percent of urban Americans, the FCC observed, in its Order adopted yesterday (December 11). The agency noted that the vast majority of urban households are able to subscribe to even faster service.
Broadband is currently defined as 4 Mbps or greater. The FCC adopted 4Mbps/1Mbps as the standard for companies receiving Connect America funds in 2011.
With yesterday’s order, the FCC is prepared to make offers of support totaling up to nearly $1.8 billion annually to a class of larger carriers known as price cap carriers in early 2015, which will potentially expand service to over 5 million rural Americans, the agency said.
The Order makes a number of adjustments to the 2011 reforms to accommodate the higher speed requirement and better target Connect America funds to efficiently expand broadband into rural areas that would not otherwise be served. These changes include:
- Increasing the terms of support for price cap carriers from five years to six years, with an option for a seventh year in certain circumstances
- Providing increased flexibility in the build-out requirement, while still ensuring that support recipients are reaching out to Americans that were previously unserved
- Forbearing from certain universal service obligations in low-cost census blocks where price cap carriers are not eligible to receive Connect America support, as well as census blocks where the carriers face competition
- Requiring recipients that decline Connect America support in a state to continue to deliver voice service to high-cost census blocks until replaced through a competitive bidding process by another subsidized carrier that is required to deliver voice and 10/1 broadband.
The Order also makes changes that will distribute traditional universal service support for small carriers more equitably and curb waste, the FCC said.
Connected Nation is an organization that maps and validates broadband availability in nine states and the Territory of Puerto Rico as part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration State Broadband Initiative grant program.
Connected Nation president Tom Ferree applauded the FCC’s action. “Virtually all of the applications needed today – for education, economic development, and telemedicine – demand ever-higher speeds. Just like dial-up hasn’t cut it for a decade, first-generation broadband won’t cut it for these critical applications.”
The following statistics were provided by Connected Nation:
Fixed Broadband Availability at 10 Mbps Download/1.5 Mbps Upload
Filed Under: Industry regulations