Blog Post

200 KBPS is Not Broadband

Last year when I was visiting India, I meet with some of the officials of Indian version of FCC, TRAI. They pointed to the FCC definition of broadband as the one they were going to adopt for India as well. I argued with them, passionately trying to explain that it was an ass-backward legacy defined definition of broadband, and India needs to be braver than that, and instead take its cue from South Korea. Their argument was baby steps. Perhaps which explains why they are stuck in the morass of 256 kbps passing as broadband. In fact, I have often said that 256 kbps is nothing more than mid-band, and true broadband doesn’t make its impact felt below 6 megabits per second… at the very least. Here is my op-ed from CBS Marketwatch …. Broadband? What Broadband?

> fatter pipes and faster connections can help Bells reverse that trend and in fact increase their revenues in the process. Phone companies across the world have caught on to this and are busy upgrading their networks to capture the “triple play” customers.

Ironically, this 200 kbps definition of broadband is becoming a noose around our necks. Bruce Kushnick, the founder of Teletruth in an report points out that 13 years ago, the definition of broadband was 45 megabits per second, but then FCC changed it. To 200 kbps. He thinks precisely for those reasons FCC might be inflating the broadband penetration rate data. [Good time to insert your won Enron joke.]

> According to TeleTruth, the U.S. is actually 16th in the world in terms of broadband connectivity. “We’re asking the FCC to use the Telecom Act’s broadband definition — any service capable of delivering HDTV quality video services in two directions … High-speed and advanced should not be included in this definition. Unfortunately, the data presented using words like ‘high-speed’ and ‘advanced services’ do not match the Telecom Act’s definition of broadband — being able to handle high-quality video,” writes Kushnick.

I don’t think the numbers from FCC are inflated since they sync-up with the data provided by phone and cable providers, who face a lot harsher scrutiny that FCC which is a private fiefdom and a political playground for whosoever is in power.

21 Responses to “200 KBPS is Not Broadband”

  1. Broadband has traditionally been defined as an always-on connection, something over 200kbits. I think that is fine as a definition of broadband.

    But I think we need a different term for the types of internet connections we have now. 6, 15, 50Mbits/sec is something very different than plain old broadband. VideoBroadband or something like that…

  2. I got 512 kb “broadband” from a provider called 7 star in bombay, india.
    Paid double for what I pay in uk for a 1mb connection.
    Well the speed is no way near 512 kb. When I checked it online it was 70 kb and the download speed was 8 kb. I was like WTF ? . Called in the engineer , and he tells me that they promised me 512 kb but with fluctuation. Ohh so that 512 kn comes like 1,s for a few seconds every hour and then it keeps fluctuating around 70 kb, for the rest of the period. I tried arguing but to no avail. And they tell its unlimited broadband. Meaning you can leave your connection on. but with a 6gb limit for the whole year. I use 60 gb every 2 months in UK. 6 bg unlimited braodband. 512 k. WOW..
    [still waiting for my hotmail to open up.]
    They need to catch up here and stop giving shite services.
    “India mai to ashe hi hota hai” [In india it is like this only.. the engineer told me..]

  3. altealst calling it broad band seems to be making it impliment faster in india. so thats a good thing. we have been using dial up connection since the internet began so this is a big step. with dial u we only get about 5 to 6 kb which is very good. and i am running an internet center on this. so getting anything more than 50 kb and all day long will be a major boost. 1 mb per second may be that will come in the next ten years.

  4. bhagesh_s

    anand i agree to u
    3 points iwould like to say
    1st government is of no use due laymen have joined it

    2nd that people not willing to come forward bcos no one listens to them.

    3rd bcos of cost factor compare it with US or Korea with India .(1mbit=95USD AND NOW 6mbit=40USD) An Indian has to pay 15.5 times more to US citizen.

  5. India is still years behind in terms of infrastructure of the telecommunications network, but you what would expect of a country that’s relatively well developed, like, say, Australia? 256kbps “Broadband”. It is without a doubt utter bullshit, mere marketing fluff to get people in and charge premium prices for barely acceptable service. For consumers in Australia, it simply isn’t possible (economically or otherwise) to get anything above 1.5Mbps.

    We hear stories out here of the fabled 6Mpbs, and the mythical 100Mbps and we sigh and return to our dark information caves. Be happy with what you’ve got :P

  6. all i know is that i’m working in tokyo this summer and my bittorrents at home download max out at around 450kB(bytes-kiloBYTES)/s at the same time uploading at 300kB/s. downloads with multi-threaded HTTP requests get about 700kB/s and direct connections via FTP to local tokyo machines can be 900-1100kB/s. this is over ADSL, by the way.

  7. Its more to do with the economics in India rather than the availability of technology.
    I used a 1.5 Mbps Cable Broadband connection and paid 2650 $ per month to a National ISP.
    Now in US, I pay 20$ for a Comcast 6 Mbps Cable Broadband.

  8. i kind of understand what you people are saying about people with 128/128 DSL, i think part of it might be its not that they dont want more bandwidth it might be that they cant afford to pay for it!, where i live the only option i have is dialup (10$ a month) dsl (25$ a month, 256kbps) or directway (1200+ for the first year, appx 99$/month or 60$/month plus 500 instation) for a person with limited funds any hight speed option might be out of the question (cell phones are bad enough

  9. Jesse Kopelman

    Matt, you make it hard by taking out the porn option. After all, if not for porn (of the softcore variety) there’d probably be no cable tv right now. There is an answer — the ability to telecommute. If I am going to work from home, I am going to have to send and receive some large emails. It’s not going to be good if every time I get such an e-mail it basically shuts down my internet access for 30 minutes. To me, part of broadband is never having to wait more than 5 minutes for an e-mail to download.

    In the end, though, you face the the same issue that always haunts technology. When it comes to something new, you don’t know you need it until you already have it. I never understood the utility of a cell phone until I got my first through work — now it is my only phone even though I pay the bill myself. I was perfectly happy with dialup (for casual surfing) until I tried DSL — then there was no way I could go back. As a tried more bandwidth hogging applications, I quickly discovered 768k DSL was not fast enough. There is a whole world out there that you have never even seen if you only have 128k, but if you’ve never seen it how do you know what you are missing.

  10. Jesse Kopelman

    Jeff, 384 kbps was the 3G cutoff for a limited mobility scenario. EVDO meets that criteria, for the downlink at least. What makes me question whether it is really broadband is that the uplink is generally limited to far less than 100 kbps. Of course, Verizon was claiming 1xRTT was 3G when it only delivered 70 kbps down and 20 kbps up, so there is really no point in trusting anything they say on the subject.

  11. Jeff Carroll

    iirc 200 kb/s was ITU’s low-end cutoff for what constituted ‘3G’ in the IMT2000 spec. Good luck trying to get Verizon and Sprint to admit that even EV-DO is not “broadband”.

    It wasn’t that long ago that I was convinced that anything more than 2400 baud was a waste of bandwidth because I couldn’t type any faster than that. Consumer expectations of data networks in the US are enabled by a couple of cultural idiosyncracies: the profligate deployment of dark fiber by US telecoms in the late ’90s, and the preexistence of cable television networks in practically all American towns. A third unique condition in the US market is the legacy of AT&T universal service; practically all dwellings, urban and rural, in the US have been provisioned for POTS service for decades.

    A society in which these preconditions are not met is going to have difficulty climbing the bandwidth-to-home curve at the rate the US has. It’s futile and kind of silly to insist that “broadband” can only mean a pipe so fat that practically no one can afford it.

  12. Jonathan

    In Korea fiber is delivered to the high-rise apartment type complexes which koreans prefer to live in. LA would require significant cost in the last mile. Even NY is not like Korea. NY high-rise community isn’t as big as that of Seoul Korea. Having said that I don’t think cost overrun is so high that it can’t be done in US.
    I think government is partly to blame, they are involved too much. They should let it a dog eat dog world of telecom.. I would love to raise my own 50 feet pole and serve up my community. It can be done pretty cheap now a days.. Try doing that… Municipality that is frustrated are putting up their own wireless system. What do they get for that? lawsuit and telecom backed bills to block their meager effort to serve their community… I think Philadelphia model is pretty good. I just think they shoud upgrade to wimax soon from wifi plan. all in all i think the problem is with government not with technology or lack of interest of the people. I think our Utility overall is lacking..too tied up. we need strong political leader that remove ties that bind innovation and spread of technology. we are already behind and that worries me..

  13. Om,

    I would gladly accept 200 kbps as broadband if it were indeed 200 kbps. what you actually get is far slower, even slower than a dial-up during peak hours. i have tested my 256 kbps connection on independent speed test sites and have got horrendous results, as low as 42 kbps. so much for broadband in india! and remember I am sitting right in the heart of bangalore, literally stone’s throw from m.g. road, if you know bangalore.

  14. I’ve asked this question in dozens of different forms, on different forums, but why not one more.
    I work for a fixed wireless isp and sit very much in the same position as Frank. Its very difficult to convince people they need more bandwidth when theres nothing they can’t do. So I’ll ask one more time, what’s the killer app? Maybe if I had something to present to them to prove the difference between our 128k and your 6Mb then it would be much eaiser to sell them, and we could afford to buy the backhaul to bump them up to “real” broadband speeds. (Difficulty: No Porn, and no more “They need it, so lets get the government to pay for it and just give it to them”)

  15. Frank, that is the problem with all the ISP/teleco/cable cos. 4-6 Mbs for $40+/month if not more? KT Telecom (Korea) offer $100 Mbs for about that much and don’t get me started about population density. If that were the only problem why doesn’t NY, SF, LA have 100 Mbs service yet?

  16. Jesse Kopelman

    I am a proponent of the porn test. One of the things that dissatisfied me about my old 768 kbps DSL service is that it wasn’t good enough for cleanly streaming high quality porn. Now, I suspose you could substitute some other type of video for porn, but really it is sex that drives inovation so why front.

  17. Frank Bulk

    Three comments:
    1. I work for an ISP, and more than 50% of our ‘broadband’ subscribers use 128/128 kbps over DSL or cable modem for $21.95 per month. We want them to use higher speeds, but they’re not willing to pay more. For them it’s fast enough.
    2. While for some broadband may mean high speed access, enough to watch full-screen video, for others it’s the always on connectivity. — it doesn’t require a second telephone line, doesn’t require a dial-up delay, or keep the telephone line busy.
    3. I’ve encouraged our state PUC to record the 128 kbps as broadband because they’re making the state look bad. We offer multi-megabit speeds for reasonable rates, but because we offer a very affordable price our customers take it. Try getting 128/128 from a national MSO. Forget it, as they will all require $40+ per month for 4-6 Mbps.
    I’ve also asked the state PUC to request statistics from each provider at the different rates, and to obtain from the ILECs and MSOs the actual number of homes passed in each ZIP code, as oppposed to their current practice that records if broadband is offered to at least one residence in that ZIP code.