FCC broadband policy update raises funding questions

SEPTEMBER 30, 2009 By Stephen Hardy -- The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Broadband Task Force issued a status report on the FCC’s quest to deliver its National Broadband Plan to Congress by February 17, 2010.

SEPTEMBER 30, 2009 By Stephen Hardy -- The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Broadband Task Force issued a status report on the FCC’s quest to deliver its National Broadband Plan to Congress by February 17, 2010. Among other points, the status report painted a picture of the current state of broadband deployment in the U.S. -- and raised questions about how much of a dent the current broadband stimulus effort would make in the country’s current deployment shortfall.

Using the 768-kbps downstream rate that defined basic broadband within the stimulus Notice of Funding Availability as a benchmark, the task force estimates that 3 to 6 million people qualify as unserved. The task force noted the cost to correct this shortfall would increase significantly if the data rate used to define broadband were to be raised.

“The incremental cost to universal availability varies significantly depending on the speed of service, with preliminary estimates showing that the total investment required ranging from $20 billion for 768 kbps-3 Mbps service to $350 billion for 100 Mbps or faster,” said the FCC in a press release describing the presentation. It would cost approximately $50 billion to enable universal 10 Mbps services, the task force asserted.

In fact, a slide in the presentation the task force delivered at a meeting yesterday asserted that the current level of private investment combined with the funds earmarked in the Universal Service Fund, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, and the Broadband Initiatives Program would not be sufficient to meet Congress’s broadband deployment goals.

To address this shortfall, the task force suggested four strategies:

  • “unleash” underutilized assets
  • align supply and demand efforts
  • maximize use of shared deployment efforts
  • potentially deploy some new assets


Not surprisingly, the task force also stated that actual service rates were less than advertised rates. Actual rates can be between 50% and 80% slower than advertised rates during peak hours, the task force said.

Meanwhile, approximately 1% of users drive 20% of traffic, and20% of users drive up to 80% of traffic, the task force estimates.

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