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Summary:

There is a lot of discussion these days in the Congress about broadband, with some legislators openly criticizing FCC’s definition of broadband (200 Kbps) and clamoring for faster connections for consumers. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) says that 2 Mbps is what should be deemed as broadband […]

There is a lot of discussion these days in the Congress about broadband, with some legislators openly criticizing FCC’s definition of broadband (200 Kbps) and clamoring for faster connections for consumers. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) says that 2 Mbps is what should be deemed as broadband – something the Cable guys will like and DSL guys won’t.

All this posturing on part of the politicians aside, the question is an important one – and we have discussed this before. I wanted you, the readers to define what is the bare minimum speed threshold that qualifies as broadband for you.

  1. All of this is fine, but is the FCC also going to fix the ZIP CODE problem?

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=fcc+broadband+%22zip+code%22

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  2. Whether things in the UK are drastically different to the US – I don’t know, but I’d consider 512Kbp/s to be broadband, though with anything from 200kbp/s to 25Mbp/s being lumped together as one and the same, maybe the solution is for another level of distinction, rather than changing the one we already have.

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  3. 2 mps is ok, but 5 is better, y’know now that i think about it they should classify it at a nice even 10 mbps. Now that’s broadband.

    http://ThunkDifferent.com

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  4. I am of the opinion that focusing just on downlink, nominal bandwidth is misplaced. Instead the measurement should be based on some statistical measure – something like sustained x Mbps, y% of the time and one should insist on comparably improved capacity on the uplink. Otherwise, we are focusing on an empty promise for “web 1.0″ service paradigm.

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  5. I don’t think the band will really ever be broad enough. The fatter the pipe gets the more ways we find to stuff it.

    Especially when you take things like Joost and Skype who use ‘SuperNode’ peering technologies, it will never be enough.

    But thats part of the fun of this whole industry, we’re never satisfied.

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  6. Jesse Kopelman Friday, May 18, 2007

    Well, obviously this is a moving target. 200 kbps was broadband 10 years ago — there wasn’t much web and a 56 kbps leased line could handle a lot of e-mail. Today, there are few applications that need more than 1 Mbps (high quality video-casting being pretty much the only one I can think of). Clearly, as demand for video grows, the target for broadband will move to > 10 Mbps. One thing that should be clear is that when we are talking broadband speeds, we are talking average not peak. I could care less if something is capable of 2 Mbps, if I never get better than 700 kbps (I’m talking to you, 3G).

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  7. ValleyGrunt Friday, May 18, 2007

    2 Mbps or more downstream, 1 Mbps or more uplink. Any clue about what %age of the broadband users in general get that kind of bandwidth (i.e. 2 Mbps or above)? I would suspect it would be in the single digits.

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  8. Keep in mind the definition is all about what the minimum standard has to be for truth-in-advertising purposes, not what we’d like to have in an ideal world. I am quite happy with defining broadband to be 2Mbps, as long as that is symmetrical. In any case, due to something known as TCP slow-start, only very lengthy file transfers ramp up to use the full bandwidth available, and differences in downstream bandwidth are mostly irrelevant for basic tasks like browsing.

    The discussions in Congress did not at all raise the subject of upstream bandwidth. The lousy upstream speeds of ADSL and cable are what gets me most riled. Until we have decent minimum bandwidth, it won’t be possible to run services like network backups.

    Internet transit is symmetrical, so there is no cost reason for last-mile nadnwidth not to be as well. The main reason is that cable providers often don’t have enough free channels available in their cable plants, and telcos don’t want to cannibalize their lucrative T-1 business (even when, as in France 10 years ago, a “T1/E1″ is actually a SDSL circuit).

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  9. Paul Kapustka Friday, May 18, 2007

    The good news is that the FCC is finally realizing it can’t live by its own numbers anymore (in the past the FCC would count an entire zip code as having “broadband” if one household in the zip code had service). The commission is on a similar tack to improve its reporting structures, but my question is — couldn’t the community at large do this better, a google maps mashup where we all submit our bb speeds?

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  10. Great idea about the Google mashup, Paul. The best implementation could be done by Google itself. People don’t even need to submit anthing! Google has the technology to know our connection speeds. For all we know, they are probably already recording that information about everyone who visits their site. My Google Analystics report tells me the approx. speed of my website visitors. So, it’s not a big deal for them to show something like the maps mashup you speak of. Who knows, they might already have it internally!

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