Has your internet seemed miraculously faster and better lately? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would like you to think it has, according to its most recent broadband status report. According to the FCC, voting to repeal net neutrality last year has encouraged ISPs to fix all the problems with internet access and speeds. As you can imagine, many observers (and several FCC commissioners) think that’s nonsense.
The Telecommunications Act requires the FCC to issue periodic reports on the state of the broadband market as it pertains to both competition and availability. When the leadership of the FCC is more friendly to the industry, these reports end up with a positive spin. That’s very much the case with the latest report issued under current chairman Ajit Pai.
The reports are used to gauge if broadband is being rolled out to consumers in a “reasonable and timely fashion.” Should the FCC find that it is not, then it’s required to institute policies to improve access. Can you guess what the FCC decided in the latest report? Yep, everything is fine — great, even.
According to the report, two-thirds of homes lack access to more than one ISP offering speeds of 25Mbps or more. This indicates many of us are effectively living under internet monopolies. If your ISP does something you don’t like, tough luck. There’s no one else offering comparable speeds. Despite this, the FCC concludes that broadband is being rolled out at a reasonable rate.
The FCC specifically cites its “deployment-friendly” moves to dismantle net neutrality as a positive for internet access. The report claims that AT&T, Verizon, and others have started new deployments because of the vote on net neutrality. However, it takes time for ISPs to start new deployments, and these are not new. Most of the projects cited reach all the way back to the FCC under Tom Wheeler. Most of the data in the report stops at the end of 2016, which is even before Pai took over the FCC.
The two Democratic commissioners have issued statements objecting to the broadband status report. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel calls it “ridiculous and irresponsible,” and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn noted that “44 million Americans lack access to fixed-line speeds of 25 Mbps.”
We can expect the positive spin in these reports to continue throughout Ajit Pai’s tenure as FCC chair. Even if the repeal of net neutrality has negative consequences, we might not hear about it from the FCC.