FCC Should Increase Broadband Benchmark To 100 Mbps, Group Says

The Federal Communications Commission should redefine broadband as connections at speeds of at least 100 Mbps, the think tank Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation argues in a new filing.

“The Commission should be setting the goal to be leading the world in broadband connections and throughput speeds, particularly as innovations in how Americans’ use the internet for work, education, and entertainment is ever-growing,” the organization writes in comments submitted Monday to the FCC.

The group adds that the U.S. currently ranks 10th in the world for average connection speed, according to a May 2017 report by Akamai that was referenced in other FCC filings. “The United States has a lot of room to improve when compared internationally,” the think tank says.

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The Open Technology Institute's new comments come in response to the FCC's recent request for input regarding its annual report on broadband deployment.

When the FCC solicited comments, the agency proposed again that broadband should be defined as connections of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream -- a benchmark first adopted in 2015. The FCC also requested comments, again, about whether mobile service can substitute for fixed connections. Last year, the agency concluded that mobile broadband wasn't equivalent to wireline due to "salient differences between the two technologies."

The Open Technology Institute says the FCC correctly decided that mobile service doesn't substitute for wireline connections. The group says that wireless speeds depend on how close a user is to an antenna, and that signals also are degraded by physical blocks -- including trees and buildings.

Also, even when mobile carriers offer “unlimited” plans, the carriers frequently throttle users after they hit a monthly data cap.

Some mobile providers, including AT&T, are pressing the agency to declare that mobile service can substitute for wireline. AT&T argued in its comments that a recent study by the industry group Internet Innovation Alliance shows that consumers use phones “for activities that were once dominated by personal computers and larger-screen televisions,” including streaming movies and television shows.

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