FCC Proposes to Redefine Broadband

John Lister's picture

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says 25Mbps is no longer fast enough to count as "broadband." It's proposed increasing the standard to 100Mbps for downloads.

The figures matter because the "broadband speed standard" is the measure the FCC uses to assess whether broadband is becoming available "on a reasonable and timely basis" to the entire US population.

If it isn't, the FCC has the authority - and legal responsibility - to take action to correct the shortfall. This could include changing rules to promote competition or make it easier for companies to invest in new infrastructure.

This can happen in two main scenarios: cities with a monopoly broadband provider, and rural areas where Internet providers don't think they'll make enough money to make it worth their while to install or upgrade a broadband network.

Uploads Also Assessed

The current FCC definition of broadband, set in 2015, is 25Mbps for downloads and 3Mbps for uploads. The main argument for updating that figure is changing usage, particularly with streaming video. That's partly because getting television and other video services is now common (often with multiple users streaming at once) and partly because of the boom in videoconferencing and remote working during the pandemic.

While her predecessor had rejected calls to increase the threshold in the official definition, FCC chairman Jessica Rosenworcel has now proposed new figures of 100 Mbps for downloads and 20 Mbps for uploads.

That's the same threshold used in the recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which awarded government subsidies for broadband expansion projects that would otherwise not have commercially viable. (Source: arstechnica.com)

Cost Also Matters

Rosenworcel also proposed a "future" national goal of 1Gbps uploads and 500 Mbps for downloads but didn't suggest any timetable.

According to Rosenworcel, it's not just a matter of speed when it comes to assessing broadband availability. She suggests that the FCC should also take into account how affordable broadband is across the country. She hasn't proposed any specific figures for what counts as affordable, or methods for calculating such a figure.

She also said the end goal is that every US resident should have access to affordable high-speed Internet, saying "anything short of 100% is just not good enough." (Source: fcc.gov)

What's Your Opinion?

Should the definition of broadband be revised? Is 100 Mbps a reasonable threshold? Should officials take affordability into account when assessing broadband availability?

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Gurugabe's picture

That is excellent news, but everyone's internet prices will increase to "cover the cost of infrastructure upgrades."

russoule's picture

Here we go again. The feds will impose a "New and Improved" standard that forces the sellers to increase the price of whatever the feds have decided to make "New and Improved". I domn't have any need for this improveent so why will I be forced to pay for it? This is just like Windows 11 being forced on us even though most of us were happy with Windows 7 or Windows 10!

Id W11 "new and improved"? maybe, but so what? it costs more to have, nt only the OPSYS but the hardware requirements as well. And does it do a better job of calculating my tax return? nope! Does it do a better job of printing my letters? nope! A lot of money for ??????

And the same thing will be true for an increase in minimum Broadband speed. A lot of money to change software and hardware touse it and the benefit wil be a nano-second faster response from the web sites.

royala_5291's picture

My wireless broadband (only way to get it out here in the boonies)is over $50 for 7.0 Mbps...I don't even want to think about the cost for 100Mbps download out here. And it is way less reliable than cable, and don't even get me started on satellite.

I have to work on customers' computers daily that have 100 Mbps, and am tired of wishing for a cheap $29.95 subscription. My remote connections to clients is slower than if I would have traveled the miles to begin with-up to 120 mi. for hardware repairs.

If all of this is possible for rural areas, I'm all for it. I watch loads of Netflix on my computer, just in stop action, waiting for it to finish buffering. Even 10 or 25Mbps would be nice. But price will be the huge considering factor.

There has not been a sufficient solution yet for rural and non-cable users who need faster connections. Faster internet, as great, wonderful, helpful, and scary as it is should be available for everyone reasonably and sufficiently ASAP. It's not just a toy anymore. It is a central connection to life and everything needed to live in our present world.