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FCC Commissioner Has One Question

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Wednesday 88 percent of all U.S. zip codes have at least one high-speed Internet connection, a 28 percent growth rate over the last three years. The study also showed 39 percent of all zip codes had at least four high-speed providers while in 1999, the number was 10 percent.

The statistics were derived from the FCC's local competition and broadband data gathering program, which requires facilities-based providers with at least 250 high-speed lines in service in a state to report twice year information about high-speed and advanced service lines. The FCC uses data from this effort to evaluate the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability.

For reporting purposes, high-speed lines are defined as those that provide services at speeds exceeding 200 kilobits per second (kbps) in at least one direction. Also, a service provider with high-speed lines reports a list of the zip codes in the state where it has at least one subscriber to its high-speed service.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps was less than impressed with the numbers.

"Today's report from the Wireline Competition Bureau seems like good news. We have made progress. More people around the country have access to high-speed services. We are moving forward," Copps said. "But I sense a problem or two or three in how we approach all this. One is methodological. If we want to accurately gauge how our fellow citizens, including rural Americans, are reaping the full bounty of broadband communication, we need to do more than base our conclusions on the skeletal zip code data supporting today's presentation."

Copps added, "Finding one high-speed subscriber in a zip code and counting it as service available throughout is not a credible way to proceed. We must dig deeper."

Copps also said basing measurements on 200 kbps was a "little passi."

"I mentioned the 200 kilobit figure that we use to someone the other day and the response I got was: 'How 1997.' I dont want to get bogged down into setting absolute standards for something that is always evolving, but I do think it may be time for us to focus on a more rigorous bandwidth standard," Copps said.

Other key numbers released by the FCC included:

  • At the end of 2002, the number of high-speed lines connecting homes and businesses to the Internet was nearly 20 million compared to 2.8 million at the end of 1999.
  • Nationally, the estimated percentage of occupied housing units with a high-speed line in service has increased from approximately 2 percent to 16 percent from December of 1999 to December of 2002.