On November 1, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) released a Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) that will initiate an assessment into the availability and quality of broadband service nationwide. The assessment, which is required by statute, will rely on information generated by the FCC’s new Broadband Data Collection (“BDC”) to evaluate progress towards broadband universal service goals. The NOI requests detailed public input on how the FCC should define and evaluate these goals based on the BDC data and other inputs.
In a press release accompanying the NOI, the FCC stated that its assessment will also “take a long overdue fresh look at our standards for evaluating broadband deployment and availability.” Among other things, the NOI proposes to raise the upload and download speed benchmarks for fixed broadband, proposing to increase the current download speed benchmark from 25 megabits per second (“Mbps”) to 100 Mbps, and the current upload speed benchmark from 3 Mbps to 20 Mbps. The NOI observes that this change would track the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provides funding for broadband service that meets a 100/20 benchmark. Additionally, the NOI seeks comment on a “long-term fixed broadband speed goal of 1,000 Mbps, or 1 gigabit per second (Gbps), download speed paired with 500 Mbps upload speed.”
The NOI asks for comment with respect to two other potential broadband access metrics: upload and download speed benchmarks for mobile broadband service, and an assessment “of the number of fixed and mobile broadband providers to which consumers have access.” It also seeks perspectives on whether the FCC should “continue not treating fixed and mobile services as full substitutes,” and if the “deployment of advanced telecommunications capability require[s] access to both fixed and mobile broadband services.”
Comments on the NOI are due by December 1, 2023, and reply comments are due by December 18, 2023.