FCC considers redefining 'broadband' to speeds of 10Mbps or more

As the internet becomes an increasingly integral part of our daily lives, our need for speed continues to grow. Although dial-up connections once sufficed for browsing the web back in the olden days, the range of services, features and entire platforms that we now rely on every day require the kind of connection speeds that many of us could only dream of twenty years ago. 

But even as we download gigabytes of games and stream high-definition movies, the definition of what broadband is remains somewhat antiquated. In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband as a connection with download speeds of 4 megabits per second (Mbps) or more. But that could soon change, as The Washington Post reports. 


The FCC's definition of broadband isn't stuck quite this far in the past... 

4Mbps is certainly sufficient for many tasks on the web, but for a home filled with family members all wanting to get online at the same time, it is rather inadequate. Netflix, for example, recommends that to stream a HD video requires a connection with a minimum download speed of 5Mbps. If you imagine that Dad is watching a movie while Mom is chatting on Skype and the kids are playing games online, the idea of 4Mbps being an appropriate definition for modern broadband starts to make a lot less sense. 

Indeed, this is precisely why the FCC is beginning a process that could result in a new interpretation of what constitutes a broadband connection. According to an unnamed official, the FCC will soon open up a public consultation on whether broadband should be redefined as 10Mbps or more, or perhaps even adjusting that baseline as high as 25Mbps and up. 


...but times have certainly changed, and so has the way that we use the web

Upstream speeds will also be reviewed; the FCC confirmed that it is considering increasing the upstream component of the broadband definition from its current level of 1Mbps to 2.9Mbps. 

Regulatory definitions of broadband may seem somewhat trivial at first glance, but there are important implications behind such changes. If, for example, the FCC were to redefine broadband as a connection with a downstream speed of 25Mbps or more, it could hold an internet service provider (ISP) accountable for failing to do more to ensure that its coverage meets this new standard. 

ISPs will no doubt have plenty to say when the FCC opens up its consultation. While the first step in this process has already begun internally, with the distribution within the FCC of a 'notice of inquiry', the exact schedule for the public consultation has not yet been defined. 

Source: The Washington Post via BGR | image 1 via Series Previews; image 2 via Digital Trends 

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16 Comments

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How about also defining the minimum upload speeds to 4Mbps too? No good downloading something super fast while you can't send something at decent speeds.

Always have issues with video quality when doing video chats with family overseas.

The issue here in the US is we didn't destroy everything right when we were building it. Some phone lines are still strung up and used from the 40's unlike most Euro countries when we basically blew up everything during WWII and they had to start over from scratch.

You guys are missing the point. the definition of broadband by the FCC has to be legally defined when used in specific applications, laws, rulings. Thus, to keep up with the movement of modern technology and to be accurate when used for the above reasons, the definition must be updated.

You guys are confusing the FCC's usage with a private companies usage of their marketing terms. Apples and Oranges.

I don't think there is anything wrong with internet providers offering different tiers of speed. I know most people around here laugh at say 4Mbps, but the reality is that some people really only need that kind of speed. They have no interested in tons of HD streaming or downloads. They literally only use the internet for browsing and email. Unless you want to force pricing to be rock bottom for even the highest speed service, then your always going to have those that prefer to save money and go with a slower speed.

So if the FCC wants to redefine the term, so be it, but I don't agree with the notion that there should be a forced minimum.

If there is demand for a very fast tier of 25-100Mbps, then I think the internet providers will offer it, as we already see happening. Google's fiber service is proof that this stuff is happening regardless of what the FCC does.

As a Google Fiber customer, I live in a different internet world. One that is post this decision from the FCC. I'm all for this.

Edited by Darth Tigris, Jun 1 2014, 1:02pm :

LOL

On topic though, I'm getting 200mb\s down right now and its going to expand to 1gb\s by the end of 2015. Now all I can do is hope the price starts to come down. I pay $175 a month for that. Even if I wanted a 22mb\s package it's still $110! That's what I get for living in Alaska though.

I visit our branch office in S. Korea occasionally and 100Mbps is the norm in that country. It's just amazing how fast their internet connection is all over the country. The best thing is that there is no cap on the amount of data transferred. Even the mobile speed using LTE-A is super fast.

Its meaningless as AT&T will still sell DSL as "High Speed" or "Fast Speed" or "Ultra Speed" or some other such rubbish and the less then educated public will still pay for it because they don't understand..

I know this is a fact because I have had this conversation with pretty much every member of my family at some point when they ask "why don't you just get DSL its cheaper"...

I currently have AT&T DSL and it is not by choice. They said I'm too far away from the VRAD for U-Verse (I'm about 7500ft away from it), and Comcast says "they have no plans" to provide service to my area. I'm pretty much SOL regardless unless one of these companies decides to start caring, which I doubt will happen. And now with AT&T buying DirecTV, and starting to push statellite internet for rural areas, I'm still SOL. My area is "considered" rural, but it's a suburb and I'm about 10-15mins from the main mall in the city, 3mins from a major road and 6-7mins from the interstate. The other kick to the nuts is everyone a mile away from here can get it.

I know many people have DSL as perhaps their only viable option, but I have to try to sell it when U-Verse isn't available and it isn't an easy sell. You have to give this bull about a dedicated line vs cable. True but not so much true that 15mb cable is the same as 6mb DSL.
Something needs to spur these companies to expand fiber.

I know this is a fact because I have had this conversation with pretty much every member of my family at some point when they ask "why don't you just get DSL its cheaper"

Well... unless you really need a ton of speed i think DSL offers more bang-for-the-buck than cable does as once your speed reaches a certain point you are better off getting the cheaper internet given the extra speed don't really justify the noticeably higher internet bill. sure, if you got money to burn it probably won't matter in which case i would also choose the faster one but you get the idea ;)

i figure if you could get around 500KB/s give or take that should be sufficient (even 300-400KB/s ain't that bad) especially if it's roughly half of the cost of those internet lines that can do 1-2MB/s or so as unless you are in a major hurry to download a ton of crap or have plenty of people using the internet at once it's just not worth the extra $$$.