FCC Chair To Propose Redefining Broadband As 25 Mbps

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler intends to propose that the agency revise the definition of broadband to Web connections offering speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.

The current definition of broadband is of Web connections of at least 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. The new, faster standard “would update the definition of broadband to reflect current consumer demands, deployment trends, and technological advances,” the FCC says in a summary provided to Online Media Daily of the agency's upcoming annual report on the state of broadband deployment.

That report also will conclude that broadband isn't being deployed in a "reasonable and timely fashion," especially in rural parts of the country.

Overall, almost one in five Americans (17%) lack access to connections at speeds of at least 25 Mbps, according to the FCC. In rural areas, high-speed broadband is even scarcer, with 53% of rural Americans lacking access to broadband connections of a least 25 Mbps. That speed is fast enough to download a 6-gigabyte movie in 16 minutes, according to a separate report issued late last year by the Commerce Department.

The FCC notes in a three-page summary of its upcoming report that people increasingly are purchasing connections of at least 25 Mbps. In 2013, 29% of consumers living in areas where that service was available adopted it, up from just 7% in 2011.

Even where Internet service of 25 Mbps exists, consumers don't have many choices about their providers, the Commerce Department said late last year. Just 37% of U.S. residents have a choice of two or more broadband providers offering 25 Mbps connections, according to the Commerce Department.

Some broadband advocates have long argued that the FCC should redefine broadband as Internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps. The organization Public Knowledge wrote in a filing last year that the 25 Mbps standard will insure that “average households have adequate capacity for online video and other applications.”

A spokesperson for the organization said today that a redefinition upwards “can boost the broadband economy, including online content.”

“There's a chicken-and-egg problem with broadband, where high speeds beget applications that can use those speeds, but many people won't subscribe to higher speeds until the applications exist,” the spokesperson said in an email to Online Media Daily.

Much of the current demand for faster connections seems driven by the availability of streaming video, which is now the dominant broadband application, according to the FCC.

Internet service providers are likely to weigh in against a redefinition of broadband, given that some already are on record as opposing a more modest FCC proposal to redefine broadband as speeds of 10 Mbps downstream.

“The Commission suggests that raising the threshold may be necessary due to increased usage of Internet applications and devices,” the industry group National Cable and Telecommunications Association said in an FCC filing last year. “It is true that usage is increasing, but this increased usage has not changed the nature of voice, data, and video traffic or the capability required to handle that traffic.”

1 comment about "FCC Chair To Propose Redefining Broadband As 25 Mbps".
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  1. Jim Rice from Piiku, January 9, 2015 at 11:01 a.m.

    This is one of the more laughable and tragic developments in telecom over the last 20 years and demonstrates without question, why special interests and disconnected people in Washington DC with a modicum of power lose touch with reality in their self constructed spheres of reality. It is tragic that we are wasting taxpayer dollars and time on such incredibly silly notions.

    Oh, let's not mistake the fact that such regulation and government intervention is wrapped in the robes of helping people; particularly those deemed disadvantaged. But way too often, demagoguery rules the day. And for the life of me, I can't see how the motivation behind regulating the internet is anything but that.

    And, come on now, think about it. As the ink is hardly dry on designating broadband as 25/3 with great puffery of accomplishments of those working at the center of the Washington DC universe, it is no longer ..... hmmmm might I dare say, broadband? I for one, have 60 megs into my home now. 25/3 is NOT broadband but rather in practical terms, narrow band. And my 60 megs costs about the same as a tank of gas per month. What a tremendous value!

    Such a tremendous service is not by government edict, but by competition between many entrepreneurs and suppliers of new technology who feed into the two wireline providers they serve. Its a wireline duopoly and it works for the large majority of the population. Analogous to this misconceived idea would be to say that dual core processors and 500 gigs of storage on "the disc drive" is a computer. Hmmm, I just purchased a quad core with 1 terabyte storage. Oh, I could have had RAM storage instead of a disc. Would that require regulatory approval? Get the point?

    Well, if not, the point is, in those areas where technology is moving so fast, it is truly laughable to regulate and tragic to think that those entrusted to help actually help the people they serve think about ideas that, whether intended or unintended, harm us. I find it hard to believe that anyone who is not a demagogue actually takes this line of thinking seriously.

    And one last thing. In these circumstances, how often does the "Law of Unintended Consequences" surface down the road? Oops. Well, more regulation and court battles, lawyers, consultants, legislators, etc. will fix that .... right? Not. Why? Because everything stalls while the debates go on and on. Its a black hole. You get the picture. We see that movie way to many times.

    We hear the cries, "Oh, it will be different." Really? Never has. Never will. Our founders figured out that principle over 200 years ago.

    Talk about killing the goose that lays the golden egg and this case, over and over.

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