Moffett: FCC's broadband redefinition would skew penetration numbers

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An FCC proposal to raise the definition of broadband will skew penetration statistics, according to a report from MoffettNathanson made available to FierceTelecom.

The federal agency is studying whether to raise the bar for broadband from 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps up to 10 or as much as 25 Mbps down and effectively disqualifying DSL as broadband.

"Raising the FCC standard will naturally lower the number of people who have 'broadband' (i.e. penetration will fall, at least initially)," Craig Moffett, senior analyst, said in a cover note about the 50-plus page report.

The change will also have wider implications because "it will reduce the portion of the country for which broadband is deemed 'available,' arguably bolstering the case for FCC authority to do something about the shortfall."

That definition could affect Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) controversial deal with New Jersey, where the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) allows the carrier to meet its broadband obligations via DSL or wireless and obviates the need to deploy more fiber throughout the state.

The FCC, in addition to throwing into question what areas are and are not receiving broadband, will also probably reshape the overall market share landscape, Moffett wrote.

"Cable's share will, on paper, appear to rise. Importantly, so too will that share of the country where cable is deemed to be the only available option, bolstering arguments for FCC authority to intervene in the absence of effective competition," Moffett wrote.

As for cable operators, Moffett concluded, the latest projections see Charter as most attractive and "Cablevision looks least attractive."

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