See ya later, DSL

BAM! The FCC just defined broadband as 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up

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The Federal Communications Commission just took a bold step and redefined broadband as 25 Mbps for downstream speeds and 3 Mbps for upstream speeds, a move that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had hinted at earlier this month in a speech at International CES. The definition is a huge jump from the previous definition of broadband as 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, which was the old standard implemented in 2010.

For a measure of how bold this is, consider that the previous standard was only changed in 2008 to define broadband as 786 kbps down up from dial up speeds of 200 kbps down at a time when people were already using services such as Skype. So until this move, the definition of broadband usually lagged the actual broadband speeds that the majority of customers were actually offered in the country. But according to the FCC, about 20 percent of the country can’t access speeds that meet the new definition, which is why this is so notable.

The FCC’s definition is important because it determines what the FCC can say about the status of the country’s broadband in the agency’s Broadband Progress report. If the agency doesn’t decide that the country is deploying broadband in a “reasonable and timely manner,” it could take action of some sort. That action might include gathering more data on why places don’t have broadband or could include programs to increase broadband.

The rules are mostly likely to cause problems for DSL providers, notably AT&T, Verizon and smaller companies such as Windstream, CenturyLink and Fairpoint, which have many miles of old copper wires that will now need some kind of upgrade to provide 25 Mbps services to the home.

The FCC’s efforts to promote faster broadband are clearly troubling the industry. The National Communications and Telecommunications Association posted this statement:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]While cable network Internet speeds already meet and exceed the FCC’s new broadband description, we are troubled that the Commission majority has arbitrarily chosen a definition of broadband in its Section 706 report that ignores how millions of consumers currently access the Internet. Instead of an accurate assessment of America’s broadband marketplace and the needs and uses of consumers, the FCC action is industrial policy that is not faithful to Congress’s direction in Section 706 to assess the market, but a clear effort to justify and expand the bounds of the FCC’s own authority.”

However, having a governmental agency push the industry to keep investing in expanding faster broadband, especially as telecommunications firms seem to abandon their investment in ares where DSL and copper lines are laid, seems prudent, lest we relegate entire swaths of the country to slow or non-existent broadband while the rest of us go on to gigabit futures.

20 Responses to “BAM! The FCC just defined broadband as 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up”

    • I left an area with Verizon fios (awesome). Got Time Warner Cable and was buying up to 20 mb/s rarely reached 14. Switched to AT&T and am getting a solid 19 now. AT&T had lots of initial billing issues which almost caused me to cancel after one month. Two providers in my area I would still call that a monopoly. I would pay additional prices to get Verizon back, but sigh they don’t come into my city.

  1. This is political theater. The only significance of the FCC’s definition of broadband is how much power the agency has in merger reviews and the application of its deregulatory power under the new meaning of Section 706(a) of the Communications Act. Some of nations with the most fiber and highest actual speeds still officially define broadband in the kilobits. Until the FCC commits to producing timely and accurate reports on broadband deployment and adoption, this kind of petty bureaucratic meddling has no constructive purpose. Democratic Party activists such as Susan Crawford, New America, Free Press, and Public Knowledge have falsely claimed for years the US is falling behind our competitors on broadband speed, but they can’t make those claims any longer in the face of the Akamai data, especially about Europe. So they play games with definitions to appeal to disaffected hipsters and professional whiners.

  2. Building last mile is expensive so incumbents are not worried about new competition. Google won’t go everywhere. It will stay priced at whatever the ISP wants, which is why we have the most expensive and slowest connections in the developed world.

    It is stupid to build everything twice and still not get price protection through competition. We should go back to offering regulated local franchises to any company that can build and operate gigabit network connections, divorced from all services. Then let the competition begin where it makes sense, in services.

    Cable, phone, electricity, water, sewer. All these networks were built with monopoly protection for the operator.

  3. gwenie Mugliston

    Because I cannot download news videos or other videos consistently, I am always ing and always get 7.81 mbps down and 0.75 up.. I wonder if Comcast will be held accountable for that as I pay Comcast for this crap speed $118/mos. I would love to have the new definition of broadband…and no, we have NO CHOICE is our intenet provider, Comcast, and Verizon split this area up and I, sigh, got Comcast. It is a friggin joke..

  4. I have been using ATT DSL for several years now. My bill has gone up at least 3 times: 2 times as a result of some sort of class action lawsuit or poor business practice. The last hike was around $5 US.

    ATT loses lawsuits and passes the costs to its customers.

    Quality of the service since then, you ask? PIss poor: slower speeds and MORE outages.

    If it were not for my disgust at Time Warner, I would have switched to cable broadband a long time ago. I really do not use the Internet that much, but, at the same time, I do not like paying more for what feels like degraded service.

    ATT has been involved in corrupt business practices for a long time. The FCC’s decision is not at fault here. The FCC is merely setting the bar so all will understand the criteria for broadband service (businesses and consumers alike).

    Needless to say, I am switching to Time Warner broadband tomorrow.

    • Oops! I left out a piece.

      I am leaving ATT DSL because I am absolutely sure ATT will do another bill increase in response to the FCC’s decision.

      This increase will not be to ACTUALLY upgrade or make improvements to the service, but to support ATT’s CLAIM of gathering capital to meet the demands of the FCC.

      Business as usual for ATT.

      • Update: My last month’s ATT DSL bill was $43.72 US. This month’s bill is $49.17 US. This is a $5.45 US increase, yet again, and no perceivable improvements to the service.

        I guess ATT knew what the outcome of the FCC’s decision was going to be ahead of time.

        I think ATT was involved in some type of illegal business practice recently. I think I remember reading about it on this site. I feel this is another case of passing on the cost of poor business practices onto their customers.

  5. Greg Kaplan

    But wait, does this have any affect on defining competition? Now that Verizon’s terribly overpriced 7mbs isn’t considered broadband, does that mean that Time warner Cable has a monopoly over my area?

  6. revengenceralf

    “The industry” can bite it, and do what they should have been doing all along, invest in new infrastructure. Telecom is a virtual monopoly in many areas of the country, most assuredly in this 20% that won’t meet the new standard. Now it’s on them to address this and offer what they offer the rest of the country.

  7. Jim Jackson

    This is really not a big deal for the telcos. Just run some fiber closer to rural customers and move the remotes closer.

    Something they should have been doing anyway. They will charge more for the faster service especially where they are the only game in town unless the FCC order addressed that also.