FCC Ups Broadband Internet Service Standard


Even before FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s recent endorsement of the concept of Net Neutrality, the former cable lobbyist caused a kerfuffle in the industry by changing the FCC’s definition of broadband Internet service. The old standard of 4 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads became essentially obsolete in today’s modern world where the home router typically handles Internet access for multiple devices simultaneously — everything from your smartphone to your video game system to your smart TV to even the venerable desktop computer.

The new standard of 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads makes more sense for today’s digital smart home, especially as the Internet of Things and Home Automation use cases become more prevalent, not to mention the growth of streamable Ultra HD television content. Still, most of the big time ISPs feel this is just another example of government overreach into a private industry. While giants like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have a point, their advertising tells another story, as noted by Wheeler.

FCC Chief Uses ISP Advertising to Support New Broadband Definition

One of the more humorous aspects of the new FCC definition for broadband Internet service involved Tom Wheeler using the ISPs’ own advertising to make his point about upgrading the standard. The general complaint from the large ISPs is that there isn’t enough consumer demand for Internet service with a 25 Mbps download at the minimum. Wheeler noted that those same companies’ marketing campaigns told a different story.

Wheeler called out Verizon’s dissension in a recent filing with the FCC. “Consumers continue to find that services at the existing 4Mbps/1Mbps threshold meet their needs for broadband services and a higher benchmark would serve no purpose,” according to the Verizon statement.

The FCC chief compared that statement with Big Red’s own advertising. Verizon advertises that their 25 Mbps service tier “is best for one to three devices at the same time.” The telecommunications company also encourages families to subscribe to their 50 Mbps service for the best performance for three to five devices. Obviously their advertising contradicts their FCC filing.

“Someone is telling us one thing and telling consumers another. Our challenge is not to hide behind self-serving lobbying statements, but to recognize reality. And our challenge is to help make that reality available to all,” said Wheeler.

The FCC Wants More Americans to Have Meaningful Broadband Access

According to Congress, broadband Internet service means “enough broadband to originate and receive high quality voice, data, graphics, and video.” The FCC’s ultimate hopes in making this definition change is to force ISPs to improve their networks, thus providing a better service level to more of the country. Rural regions especially suffer from a lack of access to broadband networks; in many cases only Satellite Internet service is available, with significant bandwidth throttling during peak hours of the day.

Once again, the FCC simply wants more Americans to enjoy better Internet access, like the service level enjoyed by the rest of the industrialized world. The commission is also expected to intervene where state laws prohibit local municipalities from building their own Internet networks. Many locations, including Chattanooga, Tennessee and their public one gigabit network, realize the advantages offered by superior Internet service for attracting high tech businesses and the resultant jobs and tax revenue.

All of this FCC activity essentially sets the table for a larger battle over the next few months within Congress over Net Neutrality and the overarching problem of improving Internet access in the country. As the United States competes in a global economy with nations with better access to high-speed Internet service, this really is an issue of great importance beyond simply being able to easily stream HD videos.

As a consumer, especially if you live in one of the Internet-challenged, rural areas of the country, you can expect the new FCC broad Internet service definition to improve the quality of broadband in your area over the next few years. It may be provided by a private company or even a local government entity, but you will be able to enjoy the full promise of the digital century.

Photo Credit: Free Press Pics