01.23.18

AFTER MAJOR SCHUMER PUSH, THE FCC WALKS BACK PROPOSAL TO LOWER THE BAR ON BROADBAND SERVICE IN COMMUNITIES ACROSS UPSTATE NEW YORK; SENATOR SAYS PROPOSED CHANGES WOULD HAVE UNDERMINED ACCESS TO HIGH-SPEED BROADBAND ACROSS RURAL AREAS

A FCC Proposal Would Have Downgraded The Minimum Standard Of High-Quality Internet Service And Would Have Treated Lower-Quality Service As A Stand-In For Fixed Home Internet; Schumer Said FCC Could have been A Real Blow To Consumers, Businesses, Hospitals And Universities Upstate Who Rely On Broadband Service

After Schumer Push, FCC Finally Reverses Course And Agrees To Keep Current Standards; Senator Says The Feds Should Now Work To Increase Broadband Access Instead of Lowering The Standard For High-Speed Internet Access For Upstate New Yorkers

Schumer: Now Work Can Begin To Increase Access To High-Speed Rural Broadband In New York

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that, following his push, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  has rejected a proposal to downgrade the minimum benchmark definition of internet service. Schumer said the previous proposal –  which would have lowered the broadband standard and created the mirage of more widespread broadband service without actually improving quality or accessibility for high-speed home internet – would have hurt Upstate New Yorkers. Schumer applauded the FCC for reversing course and ending this attempt to “define access down,” a plan that would have undermined access to genuine high-speed broadband for Upstate New Yorkers.

“This was an ill-conceived plan from the start which would have limited high-speed broadband in Upstate New York. When it comes to providing high-speed internet access to a place like Upstate New York, we should be building up, not lowering our standards and defining access down,” said Senator Schumer.  “Communities across Upstate New York – including hospitals, small businesses, local government, families, and kids doing homework -- need and deserve broadband access to function, thrive and advance in the modern world.  That is why I threw down the gauntlet on this ill-advised and damaging attempt to undermine broadband access in Upstate New York. Thankfully the FCC heeded my calls and hit ‘delete’ on this proposal. Now we can get to work on increasing access to robust, affordable broadband throughout the state instead of undermining it. “

Schumer said that each year the FCC evaluates national broadband deployment standards to ensure internet service providers (ISPs) equally distribute quality broadband. In 2015, the FCC established a new definition of broadband, increasing the access requirement from 4Mbps minimum download speed, 1Mbps upload speed, to 25Mbps/3Mbps in order to serve the 55 million Americans without high-speed internet at those speeds. This decision was an attempt to raise the bar for the quality of internet and set higher goals to increase reliable broadband access for millions of Americans.

Schumer explained the FCC’s recent Notice of Inquiry (NOI) intended to scale back the progress made by a 2015 decision by enabling ISPs to offer consumers slower speed internet and count that as high-speed broadband. In considering whether mobile broadband access could serve as a viable alternative to home broadband, the NOI would have defined the U.S. broadband standard as 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload for mobile.  Following Schumer’s push, the FCC reversed course and decided to keep 25Mbps/3Mbps as the standard for home broadband levels to the benefit of thousands of Upstate New Yorkers.  

Schumer said, “As anyone who has a cell phone knows, most mobile coverage of today could never serve as a comparable substitute to the consistent home internet: its apples and oranges.”  

The senator explained that with present technological constraints, mobile internet can vary in speed and the quality is not nearly reliable enough to be considered an adequate and sufficient alternative to good home internet if held to the low standard of 10Mbps/1Mbps.  According to Schumer, under this new proposal there would be even less of an incentive for ISPs to improve existing fixed home internet service, or buildout new broadband infrastructure, or even improve mobile broadband quality for the thousands of rural and low-income communities who lack sufficient access currently – further increasing the digital divide between rural and urban dwellers.  Lastly, the new definition could have had an enormous impact on the funding available for those in Upstate New York seeking to expand broadband networks into uncovered areas.

Schumer said the proposal would have limited the access of many households across Upstate New York, robust, affordable broadband service. Schumer lauded the FCC for reversing course and said that it is now time for the federal government to work to raise the bar for quality of service and expand coverage throughout rural communities like many in Upstate New York. Schumer said it is vital that the feds take every step possible to ensure Upstate New Yorkers stay connected.

A copy of Schumer’s initial letter appears below:

Dear Chairman Pai and Commissioners Clyburn, O’Rielly, Carr and Rosenworcel:

I write today to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject its current proposal to downgrade the minimum benchmark definition of internet service and to treat mobile broadband as a stand-in for fixed home internet. It is my concern that pushing this standard would only “define access down” and reduce connectivity quality for New Yorkers and the rest of the nation.

As you know, each year the FCC evaluates national broadband deployment standards to ensure internet service providers (ISPs) are equally distributing quality broadband. In 2015, the FCC established a new definition of broadband, increasing the access requirement from 4Mbps minimum download speed, 1Mbps upload speed, to 25Mbps/3Mbps, excluding mobile service, in order to serve the 55 million Americans without high-speed internet at those speeds. This decision was an attempt to raise the bar for the quality of internet being deployed and set aspirational goals aimed at increasing broadband access for millions of Americans.

The FCC’s recent Notice of Inquiry (NOI) would scale back the progress made by the 2015 decision by enabling ISPs to offer consumers slower broadband. In considering whether mobile broadband access could serve as a viable alternative to home broadband, the NOI would define the U.S. broadband standard as 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload for mobile, less than half the current 25Mbps/3Mbps standard for home broadband. The FCC would consider areas covered by either the lower mobile standard or fixed service as “served.”

As anyone who has a cell phone knows, most mobile coverage of today could never serve as a comparable substitute to consistent home internet. Not only does today’s mobile internet typically vary in speed, the quality is not nearly reliable enough to be considered an adequate and sufficient alternative, especially if held to the low standard of 10Mbps/1Mbps. Furthermore, under this new proposal there would be even less of an incentive for ISPs to improve existing fixed home internet service, buildout new broadband infrastructure, or even improve mobile broadband quality for the thousands of rural and low-income communities who lack sufficient access currently – further increasing the digital divide. Lastly, the new definition could have an enormous impact on the funding available for those in my home state of New York seeking to expand broadband networks into uncovered areas.

For many households across the nation, access to robust, affordable broadband service is their livelihood. Instead of pushing policies that could weaken the national standard for this critical resource, we should be raising the bar for service quality and expanding coverage. I urge the Commission to reconsider this proposal and take every step possible to ensure all Americans stay connected.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

 

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