Verizon urged the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move ahead with a proposal which would rank mobile alongside fixed access in the agency’s evaluation of broadband availability.
In a recent filing the operator argued “there is no legal or policy basis for requiring the presence of multiple different technologies” and added consumers have made the value of wireless broadband clear.
The company stated: “Although advanced fixed and mobile broadband options may have different advantages and disadvantages, depending on the situation, consumers have already demonstrated how much they value mobile broadband services. For instance, in 2016, consumers spent 69 per cent of digital media time on mobile devices, compared to only 31 per cent on desktop devices.”
Rather than an all or nothing approach, Verizon suggested the FCC adopt an assessment which examines whether areas have both fixed and mobile broadband access, just fixed or mobile, or neither. Such a strategy would “help providers and regulators focus efforts where most needed and better align needs with programs.”
Verizon’s comments come as the FCC debates whether it should count both mobile and fixed in its definition of broadband under Section 706 of its rules, which requires the FCC to assess and report annually on “whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion”.
The current standard for assessment, laid out under previous FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, requires availability of both fixed and mobile access.
At the same time, the FCC is seeking comments on whether speeds of 10Mb/s downlink and 1Mb/s uplink should be deemed sufficient for mobile broadband. The current benchmark for fixed broadband is 25Mb/s down and 3Mb/s up.
The FCC noted 13 per cent of US citizens rely solely on their smartphones for home internet access, but Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in August noted this may not necessarily be by choice, as many consumers turn to mobile “because they cannot afford a fixed connection”.
“I have heard from too many consumers who can only afford a mobile connection, and even then they have to drop service in the middle of the month because they cannot afford to pay for more data,” she added.
More than 1,700 comments have been filed in response to the inquiry, many from residents pleading with FCC to maintain the current speed requirements.