internet broadband
June 3, 2014

FCC May Redefine “Broadband”

Peter Suciu for - Your Universe Online

To twist Shakespeare a bit: An Internet connection by any speed will have the same name. That is "broadband," but what exactly does it mean in the post-dial up era? On Monday various media outlets reported that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may be considering a new definition for "broadband," a term which it is currently defined as high-speed Internet of 4Mbps second or faster.

The new definition would raise the minimum speed to at least 10Mbps or possibly even 25Mbps per second. The Washington Post reported on Monday that while there is no technical definition, the FCC currently has it set at about 4 megabits per second – and while that may have been fine for many years, in today's era of streaming music and video a lot more bandwidth is required. As such the FCC is now considering whether it is necessary to raise the definition of broadband.

The Washington Post also confirmed with the FCC that this could entail download speeds, but upload speeds would be increased as well in the definition.

"An FCC official confirmed that the inquiry also covers upload speeds in addition to download speeds," Brian Fung wrote for the paper. "In the 10 Mbps scenario, which the commission defines as a 'high-use' case involving HD streaming, HD calling and downloads from the cloud, the commission posits a minimum upload speed of 2.9 Mbps — up from the current standard of 1 Mbps."

These changes could be necessary as many Internet services need more than what the current defined "broadband" of 4Mbps provide. Netflix for one requires at least a 5Mbps connection.

Such a change could have big implications for how Internet providers are regulated. As VentureBeat reported, "If the FCC were to raise the definition to 25Mbps, numerous ISPs would be legally required to either redefine their baseline services or raise the speed of entry-level offerings."

According to the Post, the FCC will soon solicit public comments on whether broadband should be redefined to as high as 10Mbps or 25Mpbs. Such a move could increase the number of Americans without broadband.

Research firm Akamai – in its State of the Internet Report – found that the average US Internet speeds rank statistically lower than those of nine other countries – and that list includes Latvia and Romania!

It isn't clear how exactly the FCC will regulate the coverage.

"Somehow I doubt that the FCC is going to start tracking down companies who call their service broadband when technically it doesn’t meet the minimum specifications," Guy Wright reported for "For example, for years now all sorts of wireless transmission technologies have claimed to be broadband when they were far from meeting even the current definitions. When you start weighing down systems with multiple subscribers on a single line or combining DSL for upload with satellite for download things start to get even murkier. Subscribers in one part of a city may get much slower broadband than subscribers in another part of the city using the same ISP."

This is not the only change that could be made to broadband. According to Grant Gross of PCWorld, last week Representative Bob Latta (R-Ohio) introduced a bill into Congress that would block the FCC from reclassifying broadband as a common-carrier telecom service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.