FCC Proposes Classifying Mobile Data As Broadband Internet

August 10, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed classifying mobile data as broadband Internet as part of its latest Notice of Inquiry released earlier this week. The agency is suggesting equating mobile and broadband Internet by employing a somewhat different interpretation of Section 706 of its existing rule book in a move that would ultimately save money to Internet service providers (ISPs) by not requiring them to deploy broadband infrastructure “in a reasonable and timely fashion,” i.e. by being able to deploy mobile infrastructure and present it as the same thing.

The federal agency backed its reasoning by citing a study from early 2017 conducted by the Pew Research Center for Internet and Technology, according to which 13 percent of all Americans exclusively access the World Wide Web through mobile connections, adding that it’s now seeking feedback on reclassifying this particular technology branch and making it easier for ISPs to adhere to its infrastructural deployment rules. It’s currently unclear how close is the FCC with actually moving through with that idea, though the manner in which it chose to bring the concept into the public spotlight indicates that there’s a reasonable possibility for mobile data to be equated to broadband Internet in the future. A Notice of Inquiry is essentially an official suggestion from the FCC and a type of document that was often published by the regulator in the past in the run-up to more concrete actions.

Under the leadership of the former Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC required ISPs to deploy both mobile and broadband infrastructure in a timely manner, though it now argues that the two can both fall under the definition of networks with an “advanced telecommunications capability” mentioned under Section 706. As part of the same proposition, the telecommunications regulator also stated that broadband connectivity may be sufficiently advanced if it guarantees 10Mbps download speeds and 1Mbps uploads, consequently concluding that broadband Internet is already being deployed to all Americans in a timely fashion and not having to take action against ISPs that aren’t fulfilling the rules according to their current interpretation, though home speeds would still remain at the present level in that (still) hypothetical scenario.