FCC Dramatically Expands Broadband Definition


The latest Broadband Progress Report from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) shows that the US is still lagging behind much of the world in implementing broadband and providing wide range access for citizens. In a significant shift, the Commission has decided to broadly expand the definition of acceptable broadband service.

The minimum broadband speed has been raised to 25Mbps from 4Mbps, reflective an evolution away from dial-up and (hopefully) toward gigbit access. Minimum upload speeds have also been increased from 1Mbps to 3Mbps. The change will more than triple the number of US households without minimum-standard broadband. In effect the move is a bold commentary on the sad state of our digital infrastructure, as bold as you can get from a regulator anyway.

More shockingly, with the new standard over half of all rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service. The divide is still greater on Tribal lands and in U.S. territories, where nearly 2/3 of residents lack access to today’s speeds. And 35 percent of schools across the nation still lack access to fiber networks capable of delivering the advanced broadband required to support today’s digital-learning tools.

Private providers are likely to get riled up from the new standards, but the Commission doesn’t seem to be backing off. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel stated today that she thinks the broadband threshold “frankly, should be 100 Mbps.” Raising speeds to that level would merely put the US on par with many Asian countries like Japan and Korea, and not even in the top spot. (Still feeling like a world superpower?)

Commissioners have also remarked on the requirements of forward leaning technologies like 4K, which require even greater base broadband speeds.

The new definitions could play a role in the upcoming net neutrality vote which is scheduled for February 26.