The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to approve an annual report on broadband deployment that has become a magnet for controversy in recent years.
The commission signed off on releasing the 2016 Broadband Progress report to the public at its January open meeting.
In the report, the commission found that around 34 million Americans still lack access to wired high-speed internet service. It also found that rural residents still have a harder time accessing broadband than their urban counterparts.
More controversial is the commission’s finding that “advanced telecommunications capability” is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to Americans. Legally, that conclusion allows the commission to pursue action to accelerate deployment.
That has caused some in industry and telecom circles to paint the report as a regulatory power grab.
Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly criticized the commission’s decision that “advanced telecommunications capability” requires access to both wireless and wired broadband. He said the idea that wired and wireless broadband couldn't be subsitutes for each other was "erroneous."
"This is just another avenue to pre-ordain next year’s negative finding,” he said.
Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn disagreed, challenging viewers of the commission’s open meeting to imagine their daily lives without both wired and wireless internet service.
Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai said that the findings of the report showed the Obama administration's failings when it came to encouraging the spread of broadband.
“After seven years, $63.6 billion spent, and plenty of rhetoric, this Administration’s policies have failed to deliver 'advanced telecommunications capability' — or broadband — to the American people in a reasonable and timely fashion,” he said.
“The standard set forth by Congress is not being met. Rural America is being left behind.”