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:
- Defining Broadband Capability
- Defining Access to Broadband
- Measuring Progress
- Role of Market Analysis
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:
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.