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.
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.