FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed raising the minimum acceptable transfer speeds for services classed as ‘broadband’ to 100Mbps for downloads and 20Mbps for uploads. A minimum accepted 100/20 service level would be a significant upgrade on the 2015 minimum standard for broadband, which the FCC set at 25/3 Mbps.
According to Rosenworcel, and we think you might agree, the FCC’s 25/3 metric is very much behind the times. This became abundantly clear at the height of the pandemic, with all the internet gaming, media consumption and WFH tasks that became central to many people’s daily lives. Moreover, the FCC Chairwoman went so far as opining that the current broadband standard is harmful in some ways.
“The 25/3 metric isn’t just behind the times, it’s a harmful one because it masks the extent to which low-income neighborhoods and rural communities are being left behind and left offline,” explained Rosenworcel.
How did the telecoms bureaucrats come to decide on the 100/20 Mbps minimum standards figures? The FCC says it believes in setting “big goals,” so that everyone can have a fair shot in the online world of the 21st century. There is said to be a “range of evidence” supporting the new minimum proposed broadband speeds, including some work previously done as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
The FCC proposal is a small but important step. Next up, the proposal would have to be voted on by a commission that is currently divided by two Democrat and two Republican members, with an empty seat needing to be filled. If the proposal gets through to the next stage of being implemented, then telecoms companies will have to encouraged with government funds and coerced with the threat of regulator action. The commission will be keen to check that telecoms companies provide services that offer “affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access,” and will be deployed in a reasonably timely manner.
We checked speedtest.net today, and it says that the median fixed broadband speeds across the whole of the US was 154 Mbps download, and 21.6 Mbps download using June 2022 data. This data roughly indicates that the new 100/20 broadband goal should not be an insurmountable challenge for the government and private sector to achieve. Most of the upgrading work will probably need to be done in those aforementioned low-income and rural communities. The US is ranked 8th in the world for (median) broadband speeds.
The newly proposed 100/20 Mbps standard might take a little time to get over some hurdles, but it looks like it should get the green light in due course. With the effort needed to bring broadband definitions up to date in evidence, the FCC has also prudently started rolling forward with a separate national goal of 1 Gbps / 500 Mbps to usher in the ‘Gigabit future’.