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Big Telco wants more federal money to offer slower rural broadband

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Comments filed with the FCC by AT&T, Frontier, Windstream and Ustelcom (an industry group representing telcoms companies) have asked the FCC to change the rules for its next, $20.4 billion/10 year rural broadband subsidy fund to allow them to offer slower service than the (already low) speeds the FCC has proposed. The FCC wants the carriers to build out two new tiers of service: an "above-baseline" service of 100Mbps down/20Mbps up; and a "gigabit performance" tier of 1Gbps down/500Mbps up. Under the industry's proposals, they will receive billions to offer only 10Mbps up in the above-baseline tier. The carriers have also proposed that they be subsidized to offer a 50Mbps down/5Mbps up service. As Jon Brodkin notes at Ars Technica, smaller ISPs already serving rural communities have taken a different approach, advocating for rural users' right to fast broadband with high upload speeds. The providers and USTelecom claimed that 20Mbps upload speeds wouldn't benefit rural consumers much: [W]hen considering network build-out using fixed wireless technologies, an upload target of 20Mbps likely drives significant additional deployment costs—up to two to three times as high—compared to a 10Mbps upload target. At the same time, a 20Mbps upload target provides little to no additional benefits to the end user customer as all key upload use cases, including HD streaming, video conferencing, and gaming can similarly be accomplished with 10Mbps. By adjusting the upload deployment target from 20Mbps to 10Mbps, the Commission can promote competition at the 100Mbps tier, incentivize additional broadband deployment, and make limited Rural Digital Opportunity Fund dollars reach further. AT&T et al. Read the rest

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