By Brendan Sasso - 08/21/12 09:24 PM EDT
"As Commissioners McDowell and Pai explain in their dissents, the FCC’s own data actually shows broadband availability grew from 15 percent of Americans in 2003 to 95 percent of Americans in 2009," Keller said.
"Private sector investment brought fixed and mobile broadband service to 7.4 million and 46.7 million additional Americans, respectively, from June 2010 to June 2011. If anything is lagging, it is the FCC’s willingness to get out of the way and let the country’s entrepreneurs bring needed jobs and economic growth to the country,” she said.
But an FCC spokesman argued that the report already "reflects the huge strides that both the private and public sector have made to extend broadband, while also explaining that there’s more work to do."
"Some look at the progress that’s being made and say, 'Mission Accomplished.' We disagree. Our data show that 19 million Americans remain without access to fixed broadband,” the spokesman said.
Expanding Internet access has been a top priority for the FCC under Chairman Julius Genachowski, who argues that broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the 21st century.
"The U.S. has now regained global leadership in key areas of the broadband economy, including mobile, where we lead in mobile apps and 4G deployment; but, in this flat, competitive global economy, we need to keep driving toward faster broadband and universal access," Genachowski said in a statement.
Last year, the commission converted a $4.5 billion fund for rural telephone service into a subsidy for expanding broadband access. The report predicted that broadband deployment will accelerate as the commission implements the new subsidy.
The report also touted the FCC's net-neutrality rules, which bar Internet providers from blocking or slowing down legitimate websites. The report wrote that the rules protect the "virtuous cycle of innovation and investment."
But Republicans claim the net-neutrality rules burden businesses and amount to government regulation of the Internet.
In his dissent, McDowell said the broadband assessment had been co-opted by the three Democratic commissioners and "used in the course of a 'cynical cycle' of regulation."
—Updated with a comment from the FCC at 5:51 p.m.