Broadband Communities

SEP 2018

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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BROADBAND POLICY 5 4 | B R O A D B A N D C O M M U N I T I E S | w w w. b r o a d b a n d c o m m u n i t i e s . c o m | A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 8 Proving a Negative The RUS has new funds to spend on connecting unserved areas. But how can applicants prove an area is unserved? By Jonathan Chambers / Conexon T he Rural Utilities Service must decide where to allocate funds for its new rural broadband pilot program. Congress determined that the funds be used only in areas unserved by broadband, defined in the first year as areas in which 90 percent of the households lack 10 Mbps/1 Mbps service. Prioritizing spending to areas most in need is good policy, and if the government published a list of such areas, the RUS could direct applicants to that list. Alas, no such list, no such data, no such maps exist. In the words of Sen. Jon Tester, D.- Mont., "e maps stink" – by which he means the National Broadband Map overstates service coverage and is generally unreliable. If the RUS relies on the National Broadband Map and excludes all areas in which federal money is already being spent or an ISP claims 10 Mbps/1 Mbps service, only about a quarter million households in the country will qualify for the RUS program. is strains credulity. It is left to the RUS and potential applicants to develop methods to determine which areas lack 10 Mbps/1 Mbps service availability to at least 90 percent of the households. As Congress has directed the RUS to coordinate its broadband activities with the FCC, focusing on applying FCC rules and protocols to the RUS broadband program may be helpful. ACTUAL VERSUS ADVERTISED SPEED e FCC does not rely solely on the National Broadband Map when it spends the public's money on broadband networks, and neither should the RUS. e FCC has long used its own testing program, Measuring Broadband America (MBA). Earlier this year, the FCC adopted a testing protocol (https://docs.fcc. gov/public/attachments/DA-18-710A1.pdf ) to ensure that the public's funds are spent on actual, consistent, measurable speeds. e National Broadband Map and the underlying Form 477 data, by contrast, reflect self-reported, advertised speeds. (Facilities-based broadband providers file Form 477 semiannually to show where they provide service.) Having spent years analyzing 477 data and MBA data, I can say with some confidence that where 10 Mbps/1 Mbps is the maximum advertised speed, testing will show that the service would not meet the FCC's testing protocol for 10 Mbps/1 Mbps under the Connect America Fund. at may sound contradictory, but when the 477 data says 10 Mbps/1 Mbps is the maximum speed, it generally means the actual, consistent, measurable speed is less than 10 Mbps/1 Mbps. is distinction is the whole enchilada. Maximum advertised speed is typically a ceiling; the FCC's testing protocols ensure a floor. Congress offered no judgment on ceilings versus floors in the broadband legislation. However, given the attention it recently paid to the inadequacy of the National Broadband Map, Congress is unlikely to want the RUS to use theoretical, sporadic, untested broadband speeds. e RUS should adopt actual speeds, rather than advertised speeds, as the standard for determining whether areas are served or unserved.

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