In 2010, the standard was set at 4 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed to define broadband. Yesterday, the FCC voted to update that definition in order to keep up with the times and reflect consumer demand. The new standard sets broadband equivalent or greater than 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload.
Now, having broadband should allow one to still browse the web even if another person on the network is streaming a YouTube video or watching a movie on Netflix. By redefining what speeds qualify as ‘broadband’, the FCC is able to push an agenda to increase the speed of Internet access that Americans have access to. While ‘broadband’ will mostly have an impact on marketing materials, it also helps other numbers stand out.
In researching the case before yesterday’s vote, the FCC found with broadband meaning 25Mbps/3Mbps:
17 percent of all Americans (55 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.
53 percent of rural Americans (22 million people) lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.
By contrast, only 8 percent of urban Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband.
Rural America continues to be underserved at all speeds: 20 percent lack access even to service at 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 1 percent from 2011, and 31 percent lack access to
10 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 4 percent from 2011.
This update is typically seen as a good move for consumers but is disliked by the telecom industry because it puts pressure on them to invest in their infrastructure. While the change might push ISPs to provide faster prices, it has no control over their pricing. Even those 71 percent of consumers who can afford Internet access over 25Mbps choose not to pay for the higher access.
The true problem with Internet connectivity is a lack of competition, usually a duopoly per town between one cable company and one telephone company. Municipal fiber or rare efforts like Google Fiber have the most impact on that front.
See the related statements and documents from the FCC’s 3-2 vote yesterday: FCC Finds U.S. Broadband Deployment Not Keeping Pace