Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FCC National Broadband Plan: Defining Broadband Capability

I've been writing about the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to develop a modern national broadband plan that will seek to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability. The NOI is currently open for comment until June 8 with FCC reply to comments on July 7.

The 59 page report starts with some introductory information that I've covered here in prior posts. The FCC hopes to establish these four primary goals and benchmarks:

  1. Defining Broadband Capability
  2. Defining Access to Broadband
  3. Measuring Progress
  4. Role of Market Analysis
Today, let's take a look at Defining Broadband Capability.

Broadband is defined lots of different ways and the FCC is seeking comment on how the definition should capture the various issues that should be considered as the FCC defines broadband capability, including how to take into account the various existing and emerging technologies.

According to the NOI, the FCC currently uses the terms advanced telecommunications capability, broadband, and high-speed Internet. Most of us think of broadband as data - high speed data but just data. That's changing for many of us - we're in the middle of the migration to all IP networks and I believe voice and video must be included along with data in the new broadband definition. I'd be fine with just calling it just broadband.

We're also dealing with a wide range of technologies - Fiber To The Home (FTTH), Fiber To The Node (FTTN), WiMAX, LTE, DOCSIS, ADSL, etc. Each of these provides a different range of bandwidths depending on distance, signal strength, etc. I'd like to see specific bandwidth ranges that can be easily adjusted as we ramp up speeds. This is the way we did it with dial-up data access using analog modems - 300 bps became 1200 bps became 2400 bps, etc. I also believe we need to define both upstream and downstream bandwidths for these ranges. Here's the way the FCC started defining bandwidth tiers of service last year:

First Generation data: 200 Kbps up to 768 Kbps
Basic Broadband : 768 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps
1.5 Mbps to 3.0 Mbps
3.0 Mbps to 6.0 Mbps
6.0 Mbps and above

A service is categorized if bandwidth in only one direction (the faster direction) meets the ranges listed. Most consumer services are asymmetrical with more bandwidth provided in the downstream direction that the upstream direction. I'd like to see these tiers broken out further and include separate listings for upstream and downstream bandwidths.

I'd also like to see average speeds calculated over the course of 24 hour/7 day a week periods be listed. It makes no sense for my provider to list maximum speeds that I can only get at 3 in the morning when all of my neighbors are sleeping.

In addition, these tier levels must be dynamic and adjust up with technology improvements. I hope I'm not still sitting at the 3-6 Mbps tier (in one direction) a year from now.

I don't believe there should be different definitions or standards for the type of broadband service provided. For example, we don't need separate definitions for mobile broadband services (e.g. wireless) and fixed broadband services (e.g. cable modem). Bandwidth is bandwidth so keep them all the same.

I also don't believe rural and other hard to get to areas should have lower tier standards and definitions. We must make every effort to provide equal service to as many people as possible in our country.

For details be sure to see the entire 59 page report. In the next post I'll discuss Defining Access to Broadband.


jdscott50 said...

Thank you for providing this information. I have a question. While it is extremely important to provide broadband access where it is not, what about areas where 1.5 mbps isn't fast enough? It seems that the stimulus legislation is great for rural communities that have no access, but for those who have limited access, it does nothing. I am a librarian interested in this grant information for my libraries.

Gordon F Snyder Jr said...

I'm assuming all you can get is T carrier service. Expensive! Could you purchase additional bandwidth from the provider?

Gordon F Snyder Jr said...

Also - Paragraph 23 actually mentions libraries. It's in the Defining Access to Broadband sections I'll write about next.

"The Recovery Act sets a goal for the national broadband plan of seeking “to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability. We seek comment on what it means to have access to broadband capability. For instance, we seek comment on whether our determination of availability should take into consideration the provision of broadband at locations, such as at home, at work, in schools, in transit, in libraries and other similar community centers, and at public Wi-Fi hotspots. Further, we seek comment on how to interpret this term regarding access for businesses and other non-residential entities, including those that may serve as anchor tenants in a community. We also seek comment on whether to interpret the term differently depending on the technology used or whether it is used in a fixed, nomadic, or mobile context. Further, we seek comment on any similar definitions of access to broadband used by other nations or international organizations that may be useful to the Commission in this proceeding."

jdscott50 said...

I could purchase it, but I can't afford it. Also, we are looking into putting in fiber lines to our branches. Some grants provide enough to lay it, but we can't afford to use it.

Most of the qualification information states that if you already have broadband that it would be considered a duplication of services, therefore I am disqualified.

I am looking at both NITA and USDA for expanding broadband.

Gordon F Snyder Jr said...

Your state should also be preparing a plan for broadband stimulus money.

If you have not already you should contact your governor's office.

As an example - I believe states like Connecticut feel they are in good shape regarding penetration and are looking at enhancing the state municipal and public safety networks with the stimulus money.