Watchdogs Urge FCC To Define Broadband As 100 Mbps

Citing the rapid growth of streaming video services, consumer advocacy groups are urging the Federal Communications Commission to define broadband as web speeds of at least 100 Mbps -- a fourfold increase over the current benchmark.

“After four years of maintaining the current benchmark broadband speed, the Commission should take a bold, forward-looking approach,” Public Knowledge, Common Cause and Next Century Cities say in a new FCC filing.

The organizations are responding to the FCC's call for input into the 2020 annual report on the state of broadband deployment. The agency has proposed retaining the current benchmark of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream -- the standard adopted in 2015.

Public Knowledge and the other groups argue that the streaming landscape has changed so radically in the last four years that the FCC should again raise the benchmark.



“So many companies have announced their own upcoming streaming platform that the term 'streaming wars' has become a catchphrase,” the groups write.

They add that some providers have also increased their 4k offerings, which require higher bandwidth than standard definition video.

“Amazon recommends a broadband connection of at least 15 Mbps and Netflix recommends 25 Mbps,” the organizations write. “Multiple active streamers in a household would therefore require speeds significantly greater than 25 Mbps.”

The advocacy groups add that the increase in over-the-top services isn't the only reason to redefine broadband.

“Communities also increasingly depend on faster broadband speeds to access high-bandwidth applications such as educational, entrepreneurial, and telehealth services,23 including in rural areas and low-income areas that are underserved,” the watchdogs write. “Telehealth services provide a way to lower medical costs for families living in areas without adequate healthcare services; however, unreliable and costly broadband impact rural communities’ ability to benefit from these services.”

The lobbying group Incompas -- which counts Netflix, Amazon and Google among its members -- is pressing the FCC to redefine broadband as the even faster speed of 1 GB.

“Markets with gigabit connectivity not only have faster speeds, but also more affordable prices, as incumbents race to improve their networks and match the prices of competitive fiber providers that have entered the market with a broadband product that is attractive to consumers,” that organization writes.

The cable industry's lobbying group, NCTA -- The Internet & Television Association, disagrees that the standard should be revised upward.

“There is no reason at this time to increase the fixed services speed benchmark above 25/3 Mbps,” that organization writes.

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