The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is making significant strides towards enhancing the nation’s broadband speeds, a move with profound implications for small businesses.
FCC’s Proposal: Raising the National Broadband Speed Benchmark
In a recent Notice of Inquiry (NOI), the FCC has unveiled its proposal to elevate the national fixed broadband speed benchmark. This marks the first adjustment in eight years, underscoring the pressing need for faster internet connectivity. The proposed benchmark is an impressive 100/20 Mbps, and it’s backed by an array of compelling evidence.
NOI and Its Significance for Small Businesses
NOIs are formal mechanisms through which the FCC solicits insights and feedback from the public, industry experts, and stakeholders. In this case, the FCC is employing an NOI to kickstart a comprehensive evaluation of broadband services in the United States, as mandated by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Telecommunications Act Mandates Action on Broadband
The Telecommunications Act imposes a critical duty on the FCC to report annually on the deployment of broadband to all Americans in a reasonable and timely manner. If progress is lacking, the Act mandates immediate action. The existing benchmark of 25/3 Mbps was set in February 2015 and has remained unchanged since then. The realities of the pandemic and pre-existing demands have long outstripped this outdated standard. Notably, this benchmark masks the extent to which low-income communities and rural areas remain underserved.
Chairwoman Rosenworcel Advocates Upgrading the Benchmark
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel highlights the significance of the broadband benchmark. This benchmark holds substantial importance because it has historically been adopted by government entities responsible for distributing broadband funding.
Broad Support from Industry Leaders
Furthermore, the FCC’s inquiry is not merely about raising benchmarks; it also explores the possibility of setting a separate national goal of 1 Gbps/500 Mbps for the future. Rosenworcel emphasizes that ambitious goals are essential for accomplishing significant advancements in broadband connectivity.
Industry Leaders Praise FCC’s Initiatives
Industry leaders have voiced their support for these initiatives. Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS, expresses encouragement at the prospect of setting a national goal of 1 Gigabit per second for the future, while the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) Director of Communications, Mike Wendy, acknowledges the importance of such developments. Wendy also underscores the need for the inquiry to reflect realistic trends in broadband usage, especially for the benefit of underserved areas.
Universal Service Standard: Bridging the Connectivity Divide
In addition to raising the broadband benchmark, the FCC’s inquiry delves into establishing a “universal service standard.” This includes examining the universal service objectives outlined in the Telecommunications Act, focusing on deployment, affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access to broadband across the nation.
Data Revolution: BDC and Precise Broadband Coverage Maps
Importantly, this inquiry marks a significant shift in data collection. It will be the first to utilize the Broadband Data Collection (BDC) data, a result of the Broadband DATA Act passed in March 2020. This legislation mandates the FCC to collect biannual data on the availability and quality of fixed and mobile broadband access, enabling the creation of more precise broadband coverage maps.
Boosting Small Businesses with Faster Internet Connectivity
For small businesses, these proposed changes are crucial, as they promise faster and more accessible internet, facilitating improved online operations and potentially opening doors to new opportunities in the digital landscape.