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FCC's Wheeler Proposes Raising Broadband Definition to 25 Mbit/s

The current definition, 4 Mbit/s downstream, is inadequate for present-day needs, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says.

Mitch Wagner

January 9, 2015

2 Min Read
FCC's Wheeler Proposes Raising Broadband Definition to 25 Mbit/s

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is to propose raising the definition of broadband to 25 Mbit/s downstream and 3 Mbit/s upstream because the current 4 Mbit/s down and 1 Mbit/s up is inadequate in today's streaming-media world.

According to an Ars Technica article, a new FCC report, currently in draft form, has been sent by Wheeler to his fellow commissioners, saying that the current broadband market is not meeting the needs of all Americans.

The FCC determines whether broadband "is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion," part of the Annual Broadband Progress Report required by Congress, the article notes. And the FCC decides what qualifies as broadband: The previous definition, updated in 2010, raised the definition from 200 Kbit/s to the current specifications.

The FCC report also laid out statistics, based on fixed networks only, which make a case that rural Americans are under-served by high-speed Internet service. More than half -- 53% or 22 million -- of rural Americans lack access to 25Mbit/s Internet access, compared with 17%, or 55 million Americans, overall. The FCC states that rural Americans are under-served at any speed, according to the Ars Technica article.

The FCC in July authorized $100 million in funding to ISPs to experiment with offering rural broadband. (See FCC Commits $100M to Rural Experiments.)

The FCC believes the current 4/1 definition for broadband "isn't sufficient in an age of high-definition streaming video and online games," according to the Washington Post. The proposed change would, at the stroke of a (metaphorical) pen, increase the number of Americans without access to true broadband by nearly fourfold, from 13.8 million to about 55 million.

Find out more about broadband on Light Reading's broadband channel.

The broadband discussion follows reports that decisions on net neutrality are near. Wheeler said Wednesday he favors strict, Title II style regulations to protect net neutrality, but stopped short of actually calling for Title II. (See FCC's Wheeler Sends Tough Net Neutrality Signal.)

And Congressional Democrats re-introduced a bill that would ban paid prioritization agreements between Internet service providers and content providers, giving the FCC authority to enforce the ban. (See Democrats Head Off GOP on Net Neutrality Bill.)

The FCC will vote on its net neutrality proposal February 26, after circulating the proposal among the commissioners February 5, according to a CNET report.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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