Republican senators say FCC's 25 Mbps broadband standard isn't fair

The FCC's 25 Mbps broadband definition is facing more criticism from Republican lawmakers with Senators Fred Upton and Greg Walden claiming the regulator is simply power hungry.

In a joint letter to Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, the two lawmakers said that they are concerned that the lack of consistent reporting has "been used to justify commission actions to intervene in seemingly competitive markets."

The senators said that they take issue with the FCC's ever-changing definition of broadband. 

"Instead of uniformity of definition, the commission has instead made broadband speed a variable in the regulatory equation," Upton and Walden said. "This represents the latest in series of troubling actions that distort -- or outright ignore -- the FCC's requirements to produce honest, data-driven reports to inform policymakers and the public."

Upton and Walden asked that the FCC respond to their concerns outlined in their letter by February 19.

The FCC voted along party lines in 2015 to redefine broadband from 4/1 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps in 2015.

The senators' letter comes as the FCC's 2016 Broadband Progress report revealed that over 34 million U.S. citizens can't get a minimum 25 Mbps wireline broadband connection and over 39 percent of rural consumers can't get any broadband service at all. Additionally, 41 percent of consumers who live in tribal lands can't get access, and nearly half of the U.S. schools fall below the 1 Gbps per 1,000 students goal.

Part of this could be the combination of incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) that have yet to upgrade aging, slower DSL lines to higher speeds leveraging next-gen technologies like VDSL2 with bonding.

Upton and Walden are hardly alone in their criticism of the FCC's broadband definition or their broadband progress report.

Earlier, six senators also wrote a letter to the FCC complaining about the higher standard, claiming that 25 Mbps was overkill and more than a regular consumer needs.

Likewise, large ILECs AT&T (NYSE: T) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) as well as industry groups like USTelecom say that the FCC's Broadband Report does not take into account the amount of money service providers are spending to extend broadband services to more communities.

CenturyLink has been expanding broadband on two fronts. It has been building out 1 Gbps FTTP to select businesses and consumers in 16 markets as well as 10/1 Mbps to rural areas via the FCC's Connect America Fund (CAF-II). The telco said the FCC's actions makes it challenging for service providers to comply with the regulator's standards.

For more:
- see this release
- and the Senator's letter (PDF)

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