FCC: Help Us Define Broadband

1:10 PM -- In a public notice issued Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is looking to refine the definition(s) of the term "broadband" that extend beyond its current (and simple) designation of at least 768 kbit/s downstream by 200 kbit/s upstream.

And this effort (it's FCC Docket item 09-51), which ties into a larger effort that will see a national broadband plan emerge by next February, is on a fast track: The comment deadline is August 31, with replies due by September 8.

Generally speaking, comments will be sought on the following aspects of a new definition, or perhaps multiple definitions:

  1. The general form, characteristics, and performance indicators that should be included in a definition of broadband (because "advertised" throughputs can differ greatly from actual rates and aren't uniformly measured)
  2. The thresholds that should be assigned to these performance indicators today (taking into account network characteristics such as latency, jitter, traffic loading, reliability, and mobility)
  3. How the definition(s) should be reevaluated over time (since broadband technology and speed/capacity requirements aren't set in stone)

And the comments are already rolling in. To steal an idea from our own Commander-in-Chief, Phil Harvey, here's a sample of some comments that are not based on the Free Press form letter.

  • Non-specific: "Now the definition should be the bandwidth required to stream standard television definition video without excessive buffering or start/stop playing… Also, if there is another high bandwidth medium that becomes largely popular on the internet in the future which requires more bandwidth than streaming TV currently takes, we should increase the broadband bandwidth accordingly."

  • Captain Agnostic: "The same definition should be used regardless of the transport type or characteristics."

  • It's all good if Google Earth's in the equation: "The definition of 'broadband' should include a fast response time, adequate for VoIP and interactive applications like Google Earth."

  • Welcome to Fantasy Island: "Broadband is 5 megabytes minimum [ed. note: we assume this fellow means per second, which is way off the charts] of data transmission both ways for each subscriber regardless of other user's behavior."

  • Get out of my Interwebs, you fargin' bastages: "You people have no business involving yourselves in 'broadband' access if you can't even figure out for yourselves what broadband is… Leave broadband alone, and go back to fining radio stations for accidentally blurting out words like "s&*#" and "f*&%" [Ed. note: we did some editing there.] That seems to be your true calling."

So helpful…

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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