Current Process Creates Vicious Cycle of Regulation

WASHINGTON — Yesterday, TechFreedom filed comments in the Federal Communications Commission’s annual “broadband assessment.” The outcome is all but predetermined, as the agency will, as per its routine, issue a negative finding on the state of broadband in America in order to justify more regulation. The comments urge the FCC to rethink the methodology behind its annual assessment of the state of broadband deployment and focus on advocating policies at the federal, state and local levels that will actually make deployment easier.

The filing states:

We know how this story will end. The FCC is simply using the annual 706(b) proceeding as a self-fulfilling prophecy: a way of justifying its relentless drive to increase regulation of the Internet, which in turn depresses investment, thereby justifying yet more regulation — the perfect vicious cycle. With this year’s proceeding, the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Once again, the FCC will assess the state of U.S. broadband deployment, find it lacking, and use this finding to justify yet more broadband regulations. ….

The FCC has thoroughly embarrassed itself in the way it has conducted these inquiries since 2010 — or at least, it would have, if the agency had any shame left. We seriously doubt that. The FCC has wrapped itself in the mantle of better broadband and higher speeds — as if merely raising speed thresholds in the FCC’s definitions actually raised speeds for users. It’s “Let them eat cake!” meets broadband meets blatant statistical manipulation.

The annual 706 inquiry has become a complete farce,” lamented TechFreedom President Berin Szóka. “Last year, the FCC inflated its definition of broadband from 10 Mbps downstream to 25 Mbps — claiming consumers needed that to engage in two simultaneous HD streams of movies, television or online education. Assuming those streams actually required 5 Mbps, as the FCC claimed, that might justify a 12 Mbps definition. But the agency itself elsewhere recommends 4 Mbps, and even on Google Fiber, Netflix streams at an average of just 3.6 Mbps. Strip away the FCC’s childishly poor math and inflated speed estimates, and all that’s left is the agency’s preposterous claim that we should measure the adequacy of broadband deployment today by Americans’ ability to stream 4K video… whenever that becomes a thing. But a mere 15% of American households even own a 4K television, and precious little content is available for streaming — less than 0.5% of Netflix’s catalog.”

And now, with breath-taking gall, the FCC asks if it should raise its 25 Mbps threshold again or supplement it with a ‘forward-looking’ measure,” continued Szóka. “Even the FCC seems to know its speed threshold doesn’t seem like a plausible metric of success, which is why it’s now shifting to other technical aspects of service — so it can continue making negative findings forever, and use those to justify still more regulation.”

The FCC has been so blindly fixated on gigabit fiber-to-the-home that it has willfully ignored the deployment of next-generation VDSL2 service across most of America,” concluded Szóka. “Telcos have invested billions to push fiber deeper into their networks. But instead of going all the way to the home, they’ve squeezed 25+ Mbps speeds out of twisted copper pairs in the last mile using VDSL2 technology. That iterative upgrade path means huge cost savings — and thus more affordable service. But the FCC just isn’t interested in such real-world tradeoffs. If it were, it would be doing what Congress expected: using its expertise to study how deployment of telcos, cable, fiber and wireless could be made easier at all levels of government.”


We can be reached for comment at See our other work on broadband deployment, including:

  • Our statement on the FCC’s recent court loss on muni broadband
  • Our statement on the FCC’s plan to remove barriers to the deployment of new wireless infrastructure
  • An infographic explaining the benefits of Dig Once policies in aiding broadband deployment