American Internet users are telling the Federal Communications Commission that mobile broadband is not a full replacement for fast home Internet service. This week, the FCC kicked off its annual analysis of broadband deployment and signaled that it might determine that smartphone access is a proper substitute for cable or fiber Internet. In doing so, the FCC could conclude that broadband is already being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, and thus the commission could take fewer steps to promote deployment and competition.
There have been over 300 new comments filed since we wrote about this two days ago, almost universally lambasting the FCC’s suggestion that Americans might not need fast home Internet service and could make do with mobile broadband only. Mobile is hindered by data caps, limits on tethering, and reliability problems that make it fall short of a wired Internet connection, people told the FCC.
The FCC’s own analysis acknowledged that mobile broadband needs to be judged differently. The commission proposed a mobile broadband speed standard of 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream, less than half as fast as the FCC’s home broadband speed standard of 25Mbps/3Mbps.
Yet FCC Chairman Ajit Pai could conclude that wide swaths of the country have good enough broadband access if they are covered only by wireless carriers offering slower speeds than by cable or fiber ISPs. By contrast, former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler concluded that Americans should have access to both fast home Internet and mobile broadband.
“Y’all are insane,” Kevin Lenau of Texas told the FCC this week. “How can you possibly believe 10Mbps is broadband or that mobile is an alternative to broadband? Please wake up to 2017 and increase competition and decrease barriers of entry for rural area broadband.”
You can file comments at this link; initial comments are due September 7, and reply comments are due September 22.
A few hundred comments isn’t a huge amount for an FCC proceeding. But according to Pai, the raw number of comments is less important than the substance of the comments. Let’s take a look at some of the comments that have come in so far.
Data caps and other limits hinder mobile
Daniel Hoon of Pennsylvania: “Wireless Internet connections can in no way replace a wired broadband connection. Wired broadband connections provide an always-on Internet connection with no (or very high) data caps as compared to wireless plans. A wireless plan for my family to use Internet at home would cost thousands of dollars per month versus our current payment of $75.00/month. We already have zero competition at our home (Comcast only) and would like to see more Internet providers, not less.”
Jessica Starkey of Pennsylvania: “Americans need both fixed AND mobile broadband! Mobile is very limited in comparison and works differently from fixed broadband internet, and has data caps with expensive fees for going over them (unlike fixed Internet). You can’t run a business on purely mobile, nor is it really acceptable for home usage unless all you do is dick around on Facebook all day‚ something that politicians (incorrectly) seem to think is the only thing the general population uses Internet for. It’s not an acceptable replacement and BOTH need to be monitored and deployed. Maintain Wheeler’s initial determination!”
Jonathan Fair of Virginia: “Mobile Internet is not a sufficient substitute for ‘fixed’ broadband Internet. The speeds are much more limited, their capacity to handle higher load is highly limited by available spectrum (which is getting rather crowded) and also the number of users hitting a single tower. I do not support a merging of these two to satisfy section 706 [of the Telecommunications Act]. America is far behind other countries when it comes to average Internet speeds and how many people have access to high-speed (25Mbps or higher) Internet.”
William Bennett of Arkansas: “My service provider has a 10GB limit, so 10 or 25Mbps it really does not matter. I max out my data after streaming in a few hours. Consider the percentage of people who do not have unlimited data plans in your formula for service speeds.”
Kyle Templin of Illinois: “I do not think that 10/1 mobile Internet is enough speed to be considered a substitute for a fixed Internet connection. Mobile is unreliable and the throughput especially for uploading is atrocious. If I was forced to rely on solely mobile Internet for my needs I would not be able to reasonably meet goals and deadlines in my personal life.”
Don’t forget about rural areas
Justin Hopkins of Missouri: “ISPs were handed money to expand broadband service to rural areas. This was defined at the time. Lowering the bar now only serves to let them off the hook for robbing the taxpayers; and you would be the enablers of that crime. Mobile data service should not, and logically cannot, be considered broadband unless they can consistently provide the current minimum of 25/3Mbps without caps or device (hotspot/tethering) restrictions. Yet, you are proposing to not only ignore the latter, but also neuter the former requirement. I ask that you protect the People, rather than further empowering the corporations that will, and have proven to, take advantage of us.”
Michael Smith of Virginia: “Unless mobile ISPs are going to change their own policies (or the FCC change them) to remove data cap limits and tethering restrictions, and all of the other rules that mobile ISPs demanded to differentiate themselves from wired ISPs, rural areas cannot be considered ‘covered by broadband.’ I used to live in an area like this and the data cap limitations themselves prevent safe access by not allowing large downloads of operating system updates. Please do not change guidelines for ISPs prior to a real-life demonstration that proves they could provide the same access as a wired provider.”
Tom Gourlay of New Jersey: “As someone that lives in a rural area, I feel my cellphone is not adequate for our needs, and having DSL is too slow for keeping up with our Internet connection. I know we need both and feel companies have been terrible in providing broadband to rural areas even ones in a state as NJ. No one wants to put it where we live. Don’t count wireless as broadband and make companies build out their broadband to those of us that need and want it.”