Six Republican senators are pushing back against Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed finding that broadband still isn't being deployed in a "reasonable and timely fashion."
The lawmakers say Wheeler's conclusion hinges on the FCC's decision last year to redefine broadband as speeds of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. Ten percent of the overall U.S. population lacks access to connections at those speeds, as does 39% of the rural population.
The senators argue in a Jan. 21 letter to Wheeler that there is no reason why people need 25 Mbps connections. "We are concerned that this arbitrary 25/3 Mbps benchmark fails to accurately capture what most Americans consider broadband," Sens. Steve Daines (Montana), Roger Wicker (Mississippi), Roy Blunt (Missouri), Deb Fischer (Nebraska), Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) and Cory Gardner (Colorado) write.
"Looking at the market for broadband applications, we are aware of few applications that require speeds of 25 Mbps," they add. "Netflix, for example, recommends a download speed of 5 Mbps to receive high-definition streaming video, and Amazon recommends a speed of 3.5 Mbps." The Hill first reported on the senators' letter.
The lawmakers fail to mention that Netflix was one of the biggest proponents of the new standard. CEO Reed Hastings reportedly said during an earnings call last year that people will need fast speeds for ultra high-definition video and video-conferencing.
"Once you got an Ultra HD video stream that's 15 megs just a single stream and you're going to want video conferencing, you're going to want online learning, you're going to want all kinds of different applications monitoring of your home, these kinds of things on video," Hastings said, according to FierceTelecom. "So 25 megs is kind of baseline for the next five years as opposed to the past five years."
Advocacy group Public Knowledge, which also urged the FCC to define broadband as speeds of at least 25 Mbps, made similar points last year. That organization argued that 25 Mbps is necessary to guarantee that "average households have adequate capacity for online video and other applications.”
The FCC is expected to vote next week on Wheeler's proposed report on broadband deployment.