FCC Redefines Broadband As 100 Mbps

A majority of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to redefine broadband as speeds of at least 100 megabits per second for downloads -- a fourfold increase from the current standard of 25 Mbps, which was set nine years ago.

The new benchmark for upload speeds is 20 Mbps -- nearly seven times faster than the current 3 Mbps standard.

The FCC also set a long-term goal of 1 Gbps for downloads and 500 Mbps for uploads.

The agency said the new definition of broadband (technically, "advanced telecommunications technology") was based on factors including speeds currently available in the market, consumer usage patterns, and standards set by other government officials.

The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in 2021, provides funding for broadband at speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.



FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel supported the new standards, as did the agency's two other Democratic commissioners -- Geoffrey Starks and Anna Gomez. 

“This fix is overdue,” Rosenworcel stated Thursday, adding that the new standard will help the agency "better identify the extent to which low-income neighborhoods and rural communities are underserved."

Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr, who dissented, argued that the evidence didn't warrant the new benchmark -- partly because as of December 2022 only between 2% and 38% of consumers subscribed to services that offer both 100 Mbps downloads and 20 Mbps uploads, according to data compiled by the agency.

“Is it really fair to say consumers don’t have 'advanced telecommunications capability' at a speed lower than 100/20 Mbps?” he asked in his written dissent. “The take rate for 100/20 Mbps was quite low as of December 2022. Do these consumers know something we don’t?”

Commissioner Nathan Simington said in a separate dissent that a long-term goal of 1 Gbps uploads and 500 Mbps downloads was unnecessary.

“Certainly, for the same price, I would take gigabit service over 100/20 Mbps service, but I wouldn’t get much added utility out of it,” he stated. “A 100/20 Mbps connection is enough to watch multiple 4K video streams, make multiple video calls, and play multiple online games, all at the same time.”

The FCC's move comes nearly two years after the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office said the then-current benchmark “is likely not fast enough to meet the needs of many small businesses, particularly with regard to upload speeds.”

Some lawmakers also argued the 25/3 standard was too slow, as did the trade group Incompas -- which counts online video providers like Amazon, Google and Netflix among its members; that organization endorsed an even faster benchmark of at least 1 gigabit.

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