FCC Chair Wants To Redefine Broadband As 100 Mbps

The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Friday proposed redefining broadband as speeds of at least 100 megabits-per-second service for downloads -- four times faster than the current benchmark of 25 megabits per second.

FCC Chair Jessica Roseworcel also proposed revising the benchmark for upload speeds to 20 megabits per second -- up from the current 3 megabits per second.

She is also proposing that the FCC "set a separate national goal" of 1 gigabit-per-second downloads and 500 megabit-per-second uploads for the future.

“The needs of internet users long ago surpassed the FCC’s 25/3 speed metric, especially during a global health pandemic that moved so much of life online,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, who has long advocated for a faster benchmark, stated Friday. The current standard was set in 2015.

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The FCC relies on its definition of broadband when issuing its annual deployment report, which influences the agency's approach to broadband policy issues.

Rosenworcel also said Friday that the next report on broadband deployment should consider not only the speed of available connections, but also affordability, availability and other factors.

Last July, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said the minimum speed benchmark of 25/3 Mbps “is likely not fast enough to meet the needs of many small businesses, particularly with regard to upload speeds.”

That office recommended that the FCC solicit comments and evaluate small businesses' broadband needs regarding speed, then draw on its findings when determining the definition of broadband.

Some lawmakers also have said the current standard is too slow. In March of 2021, Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Angus King, Jr. (I-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Joe Manchin III (D-West Virginia) urged the agency to encourage deployment at minimum speeds of 100 Mbps.

The trade group Incompas -- which counts online video providers like Amazon, Google and Netflix among its members -- has argued for an even faster benchmark of at least 1 gigabit per second.

On Friday, Incompas again endorsed a benchmark of at least 1 gigabit.

“Gigabit speed standards promote new job creating deployment and are critical to both our economic and national security,” Incompas CEO Chip Pickering stated.

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