Blog Post

Have an opinion on broadband caps? Speeds? Tell the FCC.

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking insights on how slow a broadband connection can be and still be considered broadband, as well as what would constitute a reasonable data cap. In a notice of inquiry (formal FCC speak for “send us your comments”) the regulatory agency asked Tuesday if the current definition of broadband is too slow for how people currently use their connections, and if it needs to establish guidelines for data caps.

The inquiry also asked about mobile broadband speeds and caps as well as latency and other topics. But the important thing here is that the FCC seems to be recognizing that the 4 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload minimum standard for broadband isn’t so useful anymore — not with multiple people in a household all trying to watch Netflix (s nflx) and make video calls at the same time. From the notice:

The bandwidth requirements of a household can increase as the number of devices sharing a broadband connection increases, particularly if multiple users are accessing video content with that connection. How should this usage pattern affect our speed threshold analysis?

That’s a great question, but better ones should be asked, especially when it comes to the topic of bandwidth caps — something FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has said he thinks are acceptable. But in the inquiry, which seems to stem in part from soul-searching done after the FCC had to say for the third year in a row that the U.S. wasn’t deploying broadband in a reasonable and timely fashion, the FCC asks whether caps on broadband should affect how it ranks ISPs. From the report:

If we add a data capacity threshold for fixed broadband in the next report, what data capacity threshold or thresholds should we adopt? What data capacity limits do most fixed broadband providers offer today? How often, and under what circumstances, do consumers exceed these limits? What reliable data sources exist to identify providers’ offerings and consumers’ use? How should we evaluate situations where a provider offers more than one data capacity package to its consumers at a different price or using a different technology?

Right now the FCC has apparently considered a cap of 250 GB per month as a reasonable cap in urban areas, but I’d be curious how it came to this conclusion. Did it just pick that number after Comcast (s cmcsa) implemented that in 2008 as its original data cap, or did it actually perform some kind of analysis and then dispense that to the industry? And while it is asking questions about caps, I’d like to have the FCC ask the ISPs to explain how a data cap helps them manage their network and deal with congestion as well as why those caps need to be there in the first place. See, I have questions of my own.

The nice thing is anyone can send comments to the FCC answering the questions it raised in this notice as long as they do so before Sept. 20. To respond to the inquiry, write up your thoughts and then head over to the FCC’s Electronic Filing Comment System. Enter the proceeding number 12-228, and then you fill out the form and upload your comments. Good luck!

12 Responses to “Have an opinion on broadband caps? Speeds? Tell the FCC.”

  1. Michael Elling

    The internet was never free. Flat rate, unlimited dial-up was an artifact of monopoly Bell response to competitive WAN/IXC threat in the mid-to-late 1980s to their analog-priced Class5 hegemond. WWW only came after that. Bill and keep is anti-competitive. Called party pays (US wireless, advertising, 800, VPN, central subsidization, etc..) is broadly the future. This requires a balanced settlement solution which fosters bilateral investment leading to rapid new service creation (ie video conferencing interoperability, HD services, etc…).

    But these are monopolies and bandwidth pricing is 20-150x higher than it should be; having disconnected from moore’s and metcalfe’s laws 10 years ago. Monopolies can only contemplate average pricing and cost. Instead of “meeting” marginal demand, they cap the high-volume user and put a tax on the average user by raising rates. The model is flawed and rife for disruption a la Google.

    In a competitive model the high volume user should pay a lower volume rate, but will generate more revenue. Networks scale that way. Instead, average pricing results in high volume users fleeing the public network to private solution resulting in diseconomies of scale.

  2. Buenas ,

    Les escribo para comentar sobre su comunicado mas reciente.
    En el Area Metropolitana en Puerto Rico (donde yo vivo ahora mismo) la compañia de Cable , Internet y Telefono llamada Onelink Communications nos brinda velocidades de Internet desde 4MEGAS de Download y de Upload 345 hasta 6MEGAS de Download y de Upload 645 , yo entiendo que no es una velocidad suficiente pero en un par de meses la compañia Liberty Cablevision de Puerto Rico (Liberty Mundial) esta esperando su respuesta para comprar a Onelink Communications , esta compra me parece que sera muy beneficiosa para nosotros los clientes de Onelink por una parte, esta compañia no tiene limite Cap de 40GB el cual tiene Onelink desde el 2007 pero tiene velocidades de hasta 30MEGAS de Download a un precio rasonable. Por este medio les escribo de una vez , para indicarles que apoyo la compra de Onelink Communications por parte de Liberty Cablevision y además para indicarles que entiendo y favorezco su opinion de que todas las compañias de Internet que tengan un Limite Cap deberian de aumentarlo a 250GB y las velocidades tambien a mas de 4MB(Download) y 1MB(Upload).

    Espero su respuesta !!!

  3. Chris Conder

    USA is still working on a scarcity model. Due to telcos protecting obsolete copper assets which can’t deliver the goods. Time to light the fibre. Time for abundance and innovation.

  4. With video streaming, online gaming, mobile devices and gaming consoles my household exceeds 450GB of data per month. Back before comcast suspended the data limit, we had to monitor our usage very heavily and stop using the internet all together for the last week or so of the month each month. The kicker is, we very rarely download anything at all. This is all from streaming and gaming. Bandwith caps need to be eliminated. Home users shouldn’t be forced to buy a business plan for normal everyday usage. If there absolutely must be a limit, it should be at the very least 500GB of data, if not 1000GB.

  5. STOP REGULATING CABLE COMPANIES! Let competition reign so we can have more than one cable company in a market. Let them compete by offering faster speeds/lower prices, rather than some filthy liberal bureaucrat sitting in an office deciding “how the world should run”.

    • Ok, so it is obvious that you are a hardcore right-wing thinker here. Let me combat each of your moronic points with a string of facts and logic.

      We have been DEREGULATING corporations (like the ones that control our internet access, as the topic is on this) for a long time. What has happened? We get companies like Comcast who literally OWN all of the cables and property lines for the business to function. This is called A MONOPOLY!

      If we let the market “do its thing” and have no government regulation where there needs to be regulation, companies like Comcast remain in control over all of the cables and property – making it so that there is no competition that can compete with it on a reasonable level. There already are companies like Century Link who are trying to offer lower prices against Comcast, but the problem is that Century Link is unable to produce its service to as many customers as Comcast due to the reasons I have already discussed.

      By the way, naming yourself “Nobama” is just more reason for you to jump off the roof of a 30 story building. I’m not happy with Obama’s presidency, but I sure as hell don’t go to the lengths to make myself out to be another one of Bachman’s retarded conformist bitch in the process. Please, never reproduce.

    • Cable franchises are non-exclusive – meaning there is no regulation preventing multiple cable providers from serving a community. The fact that very few communities have multiple providers is the fault of the cable ops – not due to regulatory overreach. Besides, Chicago has multiple providers and rates are no lower than anywhere else.

      Free market competition as a means to lower consumer prices in telecom is a myth that right-wingnuts need to get over.

  6. What’s great about my internet provider is that there is no cap. Also, what’s even better is that I’m on the best internet provider of my country (GVT – Brazil). But there’s one thing that it’s still lacking. Price. We have to pay $40+ for a decent connection (15mb) but while we can have up to 100mb the price rises a lot (close to $300). Still, it’s better than what US is getting due to a ‘no-cap’ plan.

    Back on topic, when I was living in Canada I had a 5mb connection (and that was on 2k to 2k2) on Telus and I had a cap of 10gb. What’s great about a cap? Nothing. Even now, with YouTube/Hulu/Netflix the 250gb cap still too low. If an HD movie can reach 2.5gb than you can watch up to 100 videos. Now think about a household with 5 people, each one of them watching about 5 videos each week. 5x5x4 = 100 videos, meaning that the cap has been reached with the videos alone, leaving nothing more to other internet related activities.

    The internet has shifted from ‘news consumption’ to ‘video consumption’ and caps are designed only for companies that wants to rip off their consumers.

    About the speeds that the FCC should rule as ‘good’ is 15mb to 25mb, ‘fair’ from 10mb to 15mb, ‘slow’ from 1mb to 10mb, ‘fast’ should be 25mb+. That’s my view, anyway.

  7. When will the FCC force the cable television providers to compete for business? Just as with telephone providers in the past, competition in the the cable television industry would lower prices and improve service.