Mandy Rice-Davies Applies*

AT&T, Frontier, Windstream, and their industry lobby group are fighting against higher Internet speeds in a US subsidy program for rural areas without good broadband access.

The Federal Communications Commission’s plan for the next version of its rural-broadband fund sets 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload as the “baseline” tier. ISPs seem to be onboard with that baseline level for the planned Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

But the FCC also plans to distribute funding for two higher-speed tiers: namely an “above-baseline” level of 100Mbps down and 20Mbps up, and a “gigabit performance” tier of 1Gbps down and 500Mbps up. It’s the above-baseline tier of 100Mbps/20Mbps that providers object to—they either want the FCC to lower that tier’s upload speeds or create an additional tier that would be faster than baseline but slower than above-baseline.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has portrayed the $2 billion-per-year fund’s goal as modernizing rural broadband by bringing up-to-gigabit speeds to remote corners of the nation. Companies pushing lower standards are trying to ensure that ISPs offering much slower speeds can get a large slice of that federal funding without making significant network upgrades.

The above-baseline tier’s upload target should be 10Mbps instead of 20Mbps, according to an FCC filing on December 23 by Frontier, Windstream, and lobby group USTelecom (which represents those two providers as well as AT&T, Verizon, and others).


Two groups that represent smaller ISPs urged the FCC to reject calls for slower speeds. NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association and ACA Connects (formerly the American Cable Association) pointed out in a filing today that the Connect America Fund Phase II auction already included a 100Mbps/20Mbps tier.

It should surprise no one that many of the incumbents support crappier service, this is kind of their thing, because they are primarily interested in extracting monopoly rents, not providing good service.

There is a reason that companies like Comcast and Frontier and AT&T are among the most loathed in the United States.

*Well they would say that, wouldn’t they?

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