NRECA is urging federal regulators to define universal broadband as 100 megabits per second for data download and upload with a long-term goal of 1 gigabit per second symmetrical to ensure that rural America is not left behind.
The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to update the current broadband benchmark of 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload to 100/20 Mbps.
But that speed is insufficient, NRECA told the commission in comments filed Dec. 1.
More than 200 electric cooperatives are delivering high-speed internet service often at 100/100 Mbps minimum, even in sparsely populated, rugged parts of the country, the comments note.
Catering to providers with substandard connections will only exacerbate the digital divide, said Greg Orlando, a regulatory affairs director at NRECA.
“In many of NRECA members’ communities, incumbent internet providers do not even deliver 25/3 service, prompting many electric cooperatives to undertake the investments and commit the resources to deploy broadband well beyond the current benchmark,” he said.
“The success of electric cooperative broadband deployments to very high-cost areas proves that cutting-edge broadband service is achievable in rural America if providers are willing to build it.”
Electric co-ops are providing “fixed-line” broadband through fiber-based, fixed wireless or hybrid fiber and fixed wireless networks as opposed to mobile phone networks that rely on cellular transmission, which can be spotty.
NRECA also backed the FCC’s move to assess fixed and mobile broadband separately as part of its inquiry into deployment and availability and recommended that the commission use fixed, terrestrial wireline networks—rather than mobile service—to measure whether broadband is universally available.
“This distinction is especially relevant in rural communities that are often the last to receive any new wireless technology, if they ever do receive it,” Orlando said. “For rural families, network technology can significantly impact their internet experience and ability to fully participate in the digital economy.”
NRECA Broadband is positioning co-ops as a crucial force in rural broadband. Visit cooperative.com/broadband to learn more and sign up.