March 6, 2019 by Tom Cohen

Seven Reasons for the Good News in the FCC Broadband Deployment Report

 

On February 19, the FCC released a draft of its annual Broadband Deployment Report, and the news is good. Almost all Americans (290.9 million) have access to 100/10 Mbps service – up 20 percent from a year earlier. Over 200 million have access to 250/50 Mbps service – up 45 percent from a year earlier. And, the digital divide is steadily closing, with the number of people that do not have access to 25/3 Mbps declining by over 25 percent – to fewer than 20 million people.  

None of this should come as a surprise. Here are seven reasons for the good news:

  1. Private sector providers have invested hundreds of billions of dollars over the past decade to upgrade and extend their broadband networks.
  2. Electric coops, municipalities, fixed wireless providers and others are entering the market.
  3. The FCC is providing about $7 billion annually to support broadband in high-cost areas and to bring fiber to schools and libraries.
  4. The RUS continues to make loans and grants for broadband networks in rural areas, and many states have similar programs.
  5. The FCC has adopted orders lowering the costs of deployments by facilitating pole attachments and expediting access to public rights-of-way at reasonable costs.
  6. The FCC has been eliminating unnecessary regulations, including those that delayed ripping out copper and installing fiber.
  7. The new federal tax law, by accelerating depreciation, has provided a significant incentive to invest.

What’s more, most of these trends should continue, and new federal programs are on the horizon. For instance, over the next two years, the RUS will spend about $600 million for its one-time Re-Connect program, and the FCC should finally establish the Remote Areas Fund and then conduct a Connect America Fund III auction.

Greater competition also is going to drive further investment. A senior officer of a regional carrier told me that they will continue to invest large sums in their network because they face threats from cable operators deploying DOCSIS 3.1 and electric coops deploying fiber and even from fixed wireless and satellite providers that offer a low-price option targeting “value” customers. And, of course, there are the national mobile providers that have begun rolling out 5G in major markets and will extend that to most areas over the next five years.

So, the news about broadband is good, and now it’s back to work.

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