Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC or Commission) Wireline Competition Bureau released a Public Notice seeking comment regarding a specific methodology for calculating the reasonable comparability benchmark for fixed broadband services. The USF/ICC Transformation Order required Connect America Fund recipients to offer voice and broadband services in supported areas at rates that are reasonably comparable to rates for similar services in urban areas. In the Order, the Commission directed the Wireline Competition and Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus to conduct a survey of residential urban rates for fixed voice, fixed broadband, mobile voice, and mobile broadband services. The Commission has made data collected in the 2013 urban rate survey available to the public here.
The Commission concluded that rural broadband rates would be deemed “reasonably comparable” to urban rates if they fell within a reasonable range of urban rates for reasonably comparable broadband service. It directed the Bureaus to develop a specific methodology for defining that reasonable range. The Wireline Competition Bureau will compute the broadband comparability benchmark based upon a national average, and the staff report accompanying the Public Notice offers three possible methodologies to determine the average rate. The Bureau’s proposed methodology would result in a broadband benchmark that ranges from $68.48 to $71.84 for services meeting the current broadband performance standard of 4 Mbps downstream/1 Mbps upstream. Comments on the proposed methodologies are due August 20, 2014.