10.18.17

SCHUMER: FED PROPOSAL TO LOWER THE BAR ON BROADBAND SERVICE UNDERCUTS THE HIGH-SPEED INTERNET ACCESS UPSTATE WANTS AND NEEDS; SENATOR DEMANDS FCC IMMEDIATELY REVERSE COURSE FROM DOWNGRADING SPEED & QUALITY BENCHMARK; NEW PROPOSED STANDARD WILL UNDERMINE ACCESS TO HIGH-SPEED BROADBAND ACROSS RURAL AREAS

FCC Plan Downgrades The Minimum Standard Of High-Quality Internet Service And Treats Lower-Quality Service As A Stand-In For Fixed Home Internet; Schumer Says Proposal Is Real Blow To Consumers, Businesses, Hospitals And Universities Upstate Who Desperately Need Better Internet Quality And Reliability

FCC Rules That Promote More High-Speed Internet Access Are Threatened; Senator Says, If Approved, Internet Under New Standard Will Be Like Driving Tractor Instead Of A Trans Am

Schumer: This Plan Is A Broadband Mirage, Why Should Upstate New Yorkers Be Forced To Accept Anything Less Than Top-Notch High-Speed Broadband? 

On a conference call with reporters, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to immediately reverse course and reject any proposal to downgrade the minimum benchmark definition of internet service, which would create the mirage of more widespread broadband service without actually improving quality or accessibility for high-speed home internet. Schumer emphasized that pushing this standard would undermine access to genuine high-speed broadband for Upstate New Yorkers, which should be the FCC’s focus, according to Schumer.  Schumer called on the FCC to end all attempts to “define access down. ”

“Simply put, this ill-conceived plan is a broadband mirage that wouldn’t actually expand real high-speed broadband in Upstate,” said Senator Schumer. “Our rural communities need and deserve top-notch high speed broadband, and we shouldn’t accept anything less from the Feds. After all, for countless households and businesses in Upstate New York – and across rural America – access to robust, affordable broadband service is more important than ever.”

Schumer said that 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 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  goals aimed at increasing reliable broadband access for millions of Americans.

Schumer continued: “It’s disingenuous for the FCC to give the appearance that they are supporting broadband expansion, when in reality they are ‘defining access down,’ to borrow a phrase from the late great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  The FCC must immediately reset their proposal and download a new program that supports real, high quality and fast broadband.”

Schumer explained that 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 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 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.” Not surprisingly, instead of improving current service, the NOI would leave home broadband speeds at current levels, which is detrimental to New Yorkers living in rural areas.

Schumer said that, as anyone who has a cell phone knows, most mobile coverage of today could never serve as a comparable substitute to consistent home internet.  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 an enormous impact on the funding available for those in Upstate New York seeking to expand broadband networks into uncovered areas.

“If this new watered-down high-speed broadband standard is approved by the FCC, it will be like driving a tractor instead of a Trans Am for rural broadband users,” added Schumer.

Schumer said for too many households across Upstate New York, access to robust, affordable broadband service is their livelihood. Instead of pushing policies that could weaken the national standard for this critical resource, the feds should be raising the bar for service quality and expanding coverage throughout rural communities and thus he is urging the FCC to reverse course, reconsider this proposal, and take every step possible to ensure Upstate New Yorkers stay connected.

A copy of Schumer’s 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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