Cable Providers Tell FCC To Leave Broadband Definition Unchanged

The recent growth of streaming video services doesn't justify redefining broadband as web speeds of at least 100 Mbps, the cable lobbying group NCTA - The Internet & Television Association says in a new filing with the Federal Communications Commission.

“The explosion of new video streaming services is premised on the widespread deployment of networks that are capable of handling the streaming demands of millions of American households,” the lobbying group writes in comments filed this week. “If deployment were not occurring in a reasonable and timely fashion, there would be no streaming wars.”

The group's comments come in response 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.

The advocacy groups Public Knowledge, Common Cause and Next Century Cities urged the FCC to increase its benchmark to at least 100 Mbps -- four times faster than the current standard. They argued that a faster standard is warranted due to the growth of streaming services like Apple TV+, Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO Now.

Among other rationales, the groups said that some services are now offering high-def 4K video, which requires higher bandwidth than standard-definition streams. The groups point out that a household with 25 Mbps connections can only stream one 4K video at a time.

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

But the NCTA counters in its most recent filing that 4K technology is still new new to justify revising the benchmark.

“The current demand for multiple 4K video streams in a household is minimal because use of 4K is still nascent and the majority of households consist of only one or two people,” the lobbying group writes. “The Commission should not use this uncommon scenario as the driving force behind such a significant change.”

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