FCC: Broadband providers need to step up rollouts

The FCC's broadband plan may hold the promise of giving all Americans an equal chance to get a broadband connection, but getting there is anything but easy.   

A new FCC report set to be issued this week concludes that "broadband deployment is not timely and reasonable" and that the broadband service provider industry is "no longer on the right track."

And while an unnamed senior FCC official said the report is not meant to be critical of the service provider's efforts, the cries of telecom service provider industry groups are already being heard.

USTelecom's President Walter McCormick said in a statement that while he does not dispute the fact there's still work to do to connect the remaining pieces of the population that can't get a wireline broadband connection, "it is inconsistent with the commission's own data to conclude that deployment is not progressing in a timely and reasonable manner."

One of the obvious challenges that the large service providers, including even Qwest (NYSE: Q) and Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN) whose respective territories include remote markets, is that it costs a lot to extend broadband facilities to smaller cities and towns that lack the density of larger cities and towns.  

That's not to say Qwest and Windstream aren't making efforts to expand broadband availability, however. Although both service providers opted to not to participate in the first round broadband stimulus funding round because of the rules over "unserved" and "underserved" areas, Qwest and Windstream did both apply in round two to expand broadband availability in the remote areas they serve.  

Outside of the larger carriers, there are some success stories emerging in the Tier 3 service provider market. Lenora, Kan.-based Rural Telephone/NexTech just won a $101 million broadband stimulus grant to build out a hybrid Fiber to the Home (FTTH)/WiMAX-based broadband network.

Regardless of the carrier size, the challenge of extending broadband to remote areas, while real, will require multi-pronged effort that includes not only financial assistance, but also educating consumers and businesses on the value that a broadband connection can bring.

For more:
- Reuters has this article

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