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FCC Chairman: Fixed, mobile traffic up, but networks are 'performing well'

WASHINGTON, DC – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai spoke yesterday with broadband and telephone service providers and trade association leaders about the state of American communications networks as volume and usage patterns shift during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chairman heard from providers across the country who reported network usage had risen about 20-35% for fixed networks and 10-20% for cellular networks in recent weeks, with increased demand in suburban, exurban, and residential areas and during daytime hours. In general, company representatives reported that their networks were holding up quite well, and they expected that resilience to continue. This is consistent with what the Chairman heard during a similar call led by the President on Tuesday.

"It appears that our nation's communications networks are holding up very well amid the increase in traffic and change in usage patterns. That's thanks in part to networks being designed to handle ever-higher peak traffic loads and in part to a market-based regulatory framework that has promoted infrastructure investment and deployment. That said, we will continue to closely monitor the situation," said Chairman Pai.

In their conversation with Chairman Pai, no providers expressed concern about their networks' ability to hold up to increased and changing demand. Operators cited a general migration of traffic to suburban, exurban, and residential areas as more people work, learn, and access services from home during the pandemic. They said they would continue to monitor hotspots to be ready for any issues and proactively increase capacity in case peak traffic rises unexpectedly. There was strong confidence in how well the network backbone was meeting the needs of increased demand. Companies have seen some spikes in new customers signing up for services and an increased reliance on phone calls—with some calling traditional voice service the "new killer app."

Chairman Pai thanked trade association leaders for reporting helpful, nationwide data on their websites and thanked carriers for providing this data. This includes:

  • NCTA's dashboard: https://www.ncta.com/COVIDdashboard
  • USTelecom's network performance page: https://www.ustelecom.org/research/network-performance-data/
  • CTIA's network performance page: https://www.ctia.org/the-wireless-industry/managing_our_wireless_networks-covid-19

The Chairman's call with trade associations included ACA Connects, Cloud Communications Alliance, Competitive Carriers Association, CTIA—The Wireless Association, INCOMPAS, NCTA—The Internet & Television Association, NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association, Rural Wireless Association, Satellite Industry Association, USTelecom, Wireless Infrastructure Association, Wireless Internet Service Providers Association, and Western Telecommunications Alliance.

The Chairman's call with companies included Altice USA, AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, Cincinnati Bell, Consolidated Communications, Comcast, Cox, DISH, Frontier, Hughes, Mediacom, Northwest Fiber, Sprint, T-Mobile, TDS Telecom, TracFone, U.S. Cellular, Verizon, ViaSat, and Windstream.

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