FCC Releases 2016 Broadband Progress Report

At the January Open Meeting, the Commission adopted the 2016 Broadband Progress Report.  A summary of the Report has been provided for you below:

2016 Broadband Progress Report

In last year’s report, the Commission found that “advanced telecommunications capability” requires actual download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and actual upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.  For schools and classrooms, the Commission retained its short term benchmark of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students/staff.  In the 2016 Broadband Progress Report, the Commission retains both of these benchmarks, and declines to set a local fixed mobile speed benchmark, at this time. (¶ 58).  The Commission also declines to adopt non-speed performance benchmarks, stating that doing so would be “premature.” (¶ 63).  The Commission relies upon the new Form 477 information for its mobile and fixed findings. (¶ 75).

Although the Commission declines to establish benchmarks for mobile service, the Report does recognize the important role that mobile broadband plays in Americans’ lives.  The Report finds that “fixed and mobile broadband are not functional substitutes, and that both services provide necessary components of advanced telecommunications capability.”  (¶ 12).  Although the Commission has “substantially increased” its collection of mobile data through the revised Form 477 collection, there is still significant disagreement within the telecommunications community as to the appropriate means of measuring mobile deployment.  Ultimately, the Report determines that the availability of advanced telecommunications capability requires access to both fixed and mobile services.

The 2016 Report concludes that, although “progress has been made in promoting competition and removing barriers to infrastructure investment,” (¶ 139) advanced telecommunications capability is not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.  (¶ 119).  Accordingly, the Commission finds that approximately 34 million Americans still lack access to fixed 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband or higher service.  (¶ 120).  With regard to schools and classrooms, approximately 59 percent of schools have met the Commission’s short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. (¶ 123).

Mobile Service findings of the 2016 Broadband Progress Report

  • As noted above, the Report finds that fixed and mobile broadband are both critically important services that provide different and complementary capabilities, and are tailored to serve different consumer needs.  Therefore, consumers must have access to both fixed and mobile services in order to have advanced telecommunications capability.
  • Based upon the new Form 477 information, the Commission determines that 1.7 million of Americans do not have access to a mobile provider using LTE technology, and that 171.5 million of Americans do not have access to a mobile service provider with a LTE technology service with a minimum advertised speed of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps. (¶¶ 82-83).  For rural areas, the numbers are 1.5 and 52.2 million of Americans, respectively.  For urban areas, the numbers are 163,000 and 119.3 million, respectively.  (¶ 83).
  • Through its reliance on data obtained through the Mobile Measuring Broadband American program (mMBA), which crowdsources data from a mobile app, the Commission determines that median LTE download speeds for the first two quarters of 2015 are 11.6, 7.5, 5 and 13.6 megabits per second for Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, respectively. (¶ 110-11).
  • The Commission also finds through the mMBA that during the second half of 2014 and first half of 2015, Verizon had the lowest mean latency during this period, followed by AT&T, T-Mobile and then Sprint. (¶ 113).
  • Using July 2015 data, the Commission estimates that 99.6% of the U.S. population is covered by at least one carrier with LTE, but concludes that the methodology and data used to report this coverage has the potential to overstate it. (¶ 112).
  • The International Bureau finds the United States ranked 8th out of 34 “Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development” (“OECD”) countries in mobile broadband subscriptions, with 104 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. (¶ 118).  This number has shifted since 2013, when the United States ranked 7th, with 94.2 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants. (¶ 118).

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