Narrowing the Definition of Broadband


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The increased reliance on wireless services has some consumer groups advocating for a more precise definition of “broadband.” The FCC is being petitioned by these groups, reports, to clarify that broadband means web speeds of at least 100 Mbps. Incompas, an advocacy group which includes Amazon, Google and Netflix, aim even higher with their recommendation of 1 GB. 

The FCC set the current standard in 2015.

 That standard calls for minimum speeds of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. The groups are responding to the FCC’s request for feedback as it considers changes it may want to institute in 2020. 

Raising a point about improving the effectiveness of rural health outreach efforts, the responders said, “Telehealth services provide a way to lower medical costs for families living in areas without adequate healthcare services; however, unreliable and costly broadband impact rural communities’ ability to benefit from these services.”

For both rural and more urban subscribers hoping to access the wealth of streaming materials, faster speeds are essential. “Amazon recommends a broadband connection of at least 15 Mbps and Netflix recommends 25 Mbps,” the advocates state. “Multiple active streamers in a household would therefore require speeds significantly greater than 25 Mbps.” 

In the filing submitted to the FCC, Public Knowledge, Common Cause and Next Century Cities sums up their stance: “After four years of maintaining the current benchmark broadband speed, the Commission should take a bold, forward-looking approach.” Chiming in with a contrary opinion, NCTA, a cable lobbying group responded, “There is no reason at this time to increase the fixed services speed benchmark above 25/3 Mbps.”  

December 16, 2019

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