Commentary

Large Tech Companies Say 4 Mbps Too Slow For 'Broadband'

An Internet connection speed of 4 Mbps “seems too slow to be worthy of the name 'broadband,'” the trade group Internet Association told the Federal Communications Commission this week.

"The market for Internet-connected devices has exploded over the last few years, and consumers are increasingly using multiple devices to access different services at the same time -- e.g., streaming video onto a television while surfing the Web or checking email,” the Internet Association says in its filing. “The services being accessed are also increasingly media rich, requiring significantly greater bandwidth than in the past.”

The group -- which represents large online companies like eBay, Facebook, Netflix and Google -- submitted its comments in response to the FCC's proposal to define broadband as speeds of at least 10 Mbps, up from the current rate of 4 Mbps.

For their part, Internet service providers are on record as saying there's no reason for the FCC to change its definition.

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The Internet Association also asks the FCC to examine broadband providers' policies about data caps and interconnection agreements. Internet Association member Netflix has been an especially vocal critic of broadband providers' policies regarding both interconnection and data caps. Earlier this year, Netflix forged paid-peering deals with Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner Cable. Those arrangements involve Netflix paying a fee to “interconnect” directly with the broadband providers' servers.

The video rental company agreed to the deals after subscribers reported problems with choppy streams. Ever since, Netflix has been urging the FCC to enact rules that will prohibit Internet service providers from charging interconnection tolls.

Netflix also is one of the most vocal critics of Comcast's data-cap policies, arguing that they give Comcast a competitive advantage over other online video providers. In 2012, Comcast rolled out a service that allowed some subscribers to watch TV on demand on Xbox 360 consoles. Comcast said at the time that data streamed to the Xbox through this program wouldn't count against users' monthly data caps.

When used discriminatorily, both data caps and interconnection can undermine the future ability of independent services and voices to reach the public,” the Internet Association writes. “Such policies have no place in a free and open Internet.”

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