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Status of Broadband Access in Florida

FLORIDA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION DIVISION OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS September 1999
The purpose of this project is to evaluate whether basic local exchange service should include access to broadband services. Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 mandates the Florida Public Service Commission to encourage the deployment of advanced telecommunications capability to all Floridians in a reasonable and timely fashion. With the rapid increase in the use of the Internet and the resulting demand for faster transmission speeds, staff examined the issues surrounding broadband access. Local Exchange Carriers (LECs) are in the beginning stages of deploying broadband services in Florida through the use of xDSL technologies.
Based upon information provided by the LECs, staff believes that 60% of the wire centers in Florida are not currently capable of providing xDSL services. Until the LECs are further along with the deployment of this capability, no redefinition of local exchange service should be considered. Ultimately, access to xDSL services depends upon the implementation of the Carrier Serving Area (CSA) concept which categorizes local loops by length, gauge and subscriber distribution in order to determine how a specific geographic area can best be served. The CSA concept is used by LECs in Florida when provisioning outside plant facilities. Consequently, as LECs incorporate the CSA model in their outside plant facilities, the average data rate available to consumers will rise to 56 Kbps (which will provide access to broadband services). Furthermore, there should be no major differences between provisioning rural and urban areas. However, economic considerations will impact the deployment of xDSL services and staff should continue to monitor the situation to determine whether a redefinition of basic service might be appropriate in the future.
It should be noted that states are preparing and passing legislation to promote access to the Internet. The Oregon Legislature has passed a bill (Senate Bill 622) whereby a "Telecommunications Infrastructure Account" would be established to be funded by the telecommunication carriers that opt out of rate of return regulation. This account would be used (upon approval by the State) for "projects that provide increased bandwidth between communities, route diversity and access to advanced communications services in an expedited manner." The Georgia Legislature has approved a Universal Access Fund and has begun implementing plans to provide broadband access to all citizens of the state. The telecommunications industry in Florida feels that the market should drive the deployment of broadband services and intervention by the Commission is not necessary at this time.
This report is an initial step in assessing the status of deployment of advanced telecommunications (broadband) services and subscriber demand within Florida. As part of staff's service quality evaluation procedures, tests of subscriber loops to measure data transmission rates will be conducted in order to calculate an average data transmission rate for a wire center. This will provide the Commission with a "snap shot" of how the LECs are progressing in provisioning for broadband access.