FCC's rosy new broadband fact sheet 'misleading,' critics say

Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai waits to be sworn in as the two new Commissioners at the FCC headquarters in Washington, DC., on May 14, 2012. (FCC)

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The FCC has released a fact sheet on the state of broadband deployment — a preview of its upcoming report on the topic — that Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and some broadband advocates claim misrepresents the current state of high-speed internet access in the U.S.

In the document released Tuesday, the FCC compares current data with last year’s broadband report, showing that the number of Americans lacking high-speed internet dropped by 25 percent — from 26.1 million to 19.4 million. The majority of those who gained access since last year access are shown to live in rural regions — a target area for the FCC’s recent broadband efforts.

The FCC also shows that the number of households with 100/mbps and 250/mbps internet speeds increased, as did private-sector spending on fiber and other broadband infrastructure. All of this, the fact sheet concludes, reveals broadband is “being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis.”

“This report shows that our approach is working. But we won’t rest until all Americans can have access to broadband and the 21st century opportunities it provides to communities everywhere,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement released alongside the fact sheet.

Not everybody thinks the FCC’s approach is working, however. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who has emphasized universal broadband deployment during her nearly seven years at the agency, tweeted her concerns about the draft report on Tuesday.

The report referenced by Rosenworcel is not yet public, but some broadband advocates who have seen the report have voiced similar concerns. Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight For the Future, an online net neutrality advocacy campaign, said the fact sheet is misleading.

“From what we can see, this report looks like it was written by a telecom lobbyist and bears no resemblance to what Internet users are experiencing in their everyday lives,” Greer writes in a blog post on her organization’s website. “The fact that the ISP’s bought-and-paid for mercenaries are lining up to celebrate the report’s findings should tell you everything you need to know.”

Greer says the report also ignores several important issues, including price-gouging, low speeds, and the telecommunication industry’s mass layoffs.

The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on these criticisms. The Commission is expected to vote on the report’s release within the next few weeks.

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Broadband, FCC
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