Martha Buyer
Martha Buyer is an attorney whose practice is limited to the practice of telecommunications law. In this capacity, she has...
Read Full Bio >>

Martha Buyer | January 10, 2018 |


FCC Attempts to Weaken Broadband Standard

FCC Attempts to Weaken Broadband Standard Rather than hold providers accountable, the Commission wants to lower speed requirements and loosen definition of competition.

Rather than hold providers accountable, the Commission wants to lower speed requirements and loosen definition of competition.

You may have missed this item with the uproar around the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision to repeal Net neutrality rules, but the agency is prepared to harm consumers further by changing the definition of what constitutes "broadband service" for compliance purposes. While Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 specifies that broadband service providers must enhance their service offerings in underserved communities to meet compliance requirements, the FCC has proposed to dismiss this requirement by instead changing the definition of what constitutes broadband service. In so doing, it would effectively be lowering acceptable upload and download speeds for data by more than 50%. There have been rumblings about the FCC's intent for a while, with a request for comments having been issued last summer. But time is now of the essence, as the FCC plans an action item decision on Feb. 2.

As I asked in the October 2017 No Jitter post, "Changing Broadband Definitions," when teachers have trouble getting students to pass a test, should they lower the standards for passing or modify the teaching so that students understand, if not master, the material? The same question applies here. If you're in favor of the "dumbing down the test" approach, read no further. If you feel otherwise, read on.

Under Section 706, the FCC is required to measure, on a consistent basis, whether telecom carriers are deploying broadband to all Americans uniformly and "in a reasonable and timely fashion." Through its regular research, if the Commission determines that the industry is failing in its buildout of "advanced telecommunications capability" it must legally "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment" and by "promoting competition in the telecommunications market." (As for said "advanced telecommunications capability," the FCC defines that as "without regard to any transmission media or technology, as high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability that enables users to originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications using any technology.")

Recognizing that there's more than one way to skin a cat, FCC Chair Ajit Pai is suggesting that rather than hold the largest providers accountable, an easier resolution would be to lower the definition of broadband from 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up to 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up, and then redefine "competition" so that the presence of one additional provider, located within a half-mile radius of the potential customer, constitutes competition. Really? The redefinition of these key terms is a back door way of enabling existing rules to fit a process that's clearly not achieving its defined goals. It fails to address the underlying problem, which is that the primary providers have little incentive to build out services that those of us who live and work in metropolitan areas take for granted in places where the market alone will never be able to sustain the cost to deploy and maintain these networks.

But back to the speed issue. If the FCC chair and his Republican cohorts are successful in lowering the defined speed of advanced communications capability, the change would put the U.S. in a unique position. According to statistics provided by, the U.S. would be 50th in the world, right between the Isle of Man and the Bahamas, in terms of mean download speed. Even at the current 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up defined rate, the U.S. comes in at 15, between Hungary and Lithuania. For the record, Singapore is first, with a mean download speed of 55.13 Mbps. Further, although it's not on this list, the Canadian legal standard is 50 Mbps down/10 Mbps up, a far cry from the current American standard.

One other important note. The speeds quoted reflect delivery goals. But speed drops based on demand, so if four people at a residence are online at the same time, the speed for all drops as they struggle to share the finite amount of upload and download capacity. Given that a single Netflix stream consumes between 3.5 and 5 Mbps by itself, and given that with every day we each have more connected devices sharing the bandwidth, this proposed weakening of the delivery standard will hurt multi-device households most acutely.

The proposed FCC standard equates fixed-line broadband with wireless broadband. Wireless data, whether over Wi-Fi or cellular networks, is not equivalent to fixed-line broadband.

First of all, with current LTE implementations, mobile data is subject to latency issues simply as a function of the transmission process. Latency is a particular problem with cellular broadband, although when 5G is deployed this problem is likely to be gracefully addressed. Additionally, and probably more critically, the cost to use cellular data is significantly higher than the cost to use fixed-line broadband. CCG Consulting estimates the cost for a household using 100 gigabytes of cellular data in a month at close to $1,000, where the cost of functionally faster fixed-line broadband is probably one-tenth of that amount. Given that average households use between 150 and 200 GB of data per month, according to several ISPs, the cost differential alone is nothing short of staggering. Additionally, wireless providers often throttle data when a certain usage limit is reached or when network traffic is heavy, according to Tom Brannen, president of Wassaw Consulting, an independent business communications consulting firm. Finally, because the demand for higher network speeds will only increase as more devices and people connect, the plan to lower the threshold definition is nothing if not shortsighted.

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump signed two executive orders creating additional funding mechanisms to support rural broadband deployment. While claiming that such action would enable American farmers to "compete on a level playing field," he failed to mention (or his speechwriters failed to include this information) that at the same time his administration is working to lower the standard delivery speeds, thus creating an unlevel playing field once again.

How can American students and enterprises succeed if, in the name of increased deployment, we lower the quality of what's being deployed? I guess it's time for another comment to the FCC and a call to my congressman.

Hear more from Martha at during the Enterprise Connect 2018, March 12 to 15, in Orlando, Fla., where she'll be participating in a panel discussion, "E-911: Proactive Strategies for Success." Register now using the code NOJITTER to save an additional $200 off the Advance Rate (expires this Friday, Jan. 12!) or get a free Expo Plus pass.

Related content:


September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

August 29, 2018

Moving your voice services to the cloud introduces new challenges for 9-1-1 services. These include the need to serve multiple locations, and the increased mobility that comes with having a phone t

August 8, 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a reality for your contact center. But to turn the promise of AI into practical reality, there are a couple of prerequisites: Moving to the cloud and integr

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.