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FCC Chair Aims to Boost Minimum Broadband Speeds to 100/20 Mbps

FCC Internet Speeds
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

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.

(Image credit: speedtest.net)

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’.

Mark Tyson
Mark Tyson

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • gggplaya
    " and we think you might agree, the FCC’s 25/3 metric is very much behind the times. "

    No, actually I don't agree. 25mbps is actually fine as long as you're using a router with a good QOS traffic shaping algorithm like FQ_Codel or Cake. Eero uses this on their routers, so does the IQ router and some Asus routers that can load Merlin firmware. It's standard on DDWRT firmware now and available on OpenWRT as well. 25mbps is enough for 4k video and plenty enough for gaming, although game updates will take a bit longer.

    3mbps upload is a little slow, I'd like to see that moved to 6 or 10mbps.

    With multiple kids schooling from home, the upload bandwidth was a real issue.

    But with emerging technnologies like Starlink being under 100mbps at certain times, but able to serve rural communities. DSL in many places limited to about 25-40mbps. Microwave broadband WISP providers at 10-50mbps. As well at ATSC 3.0 internet possibly in the future. There's no easy way to roll 100mpbs+ internet to these low density communities without the government stepping in to pay for it or subsidize it. You would never actually recover the cost to install fiber or cable when the population has such low density.

    Most urban areas have cable internet available to them.

    Instead the FCC needs to focus on delivering the current broadband speeds to EVERY household. Not all households can get it, and I know people dying to get more than 3mbps internet, or stuck on super expensive hughsnet. Starlink is an answer, the other answer I think is microwave broadband WISP. If the FCC would back setting up more WISP providers, perhaps by having the government pay for towers in rural areas, then everyone would have access to the current broadband speeds.
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    gggplaya said:
    " and we think you might agree, the FCC’s 25/3 metric is very much behind the times. "

    No, actually I don't agree. 25mbps is actually find as long as you're using a router with a good QOS traffic shaping algorithm like FQ_Codel or Cake. Eero uses this on their routers, so does the IQ router and some Asus routers that can load Merlin firmware. It's standard on DDWRT firmware now and available on OpenWRT as well. 25mbps is enough for 4k video and plenty enough for gaming, although game updates will take a bit longer.

    3mbps upload is a little slow, I'd like to see that moved to 6 or 10mbps.

    With multiple kids schooling from home, the upload bandwidth was a real issue.

    But with emerging technnologies like Starlink being under 100mbps at time, but able to serve rural communities. DSL in many places limited to about 25-40mbps. Microwave broadband WISP providers at 10-50mbps. As well at ATSC 3.0 internet possibly in the future. There's no easy way to roll 100mpbs+ internet to these low density communities without the government stepping in to pay for it or subsidize it. You would never actually recover the cost to install fiber or cable when the population has such low density.

    Most urban areas have cable internet available to them.

    Instead the FCC needs to focus on delivering the current broadband speeds to EVERY household. Not all households can get it, and I know people dying to get more than 3mbps internet, or stuck on super expensive hughsnet. Starlink is an answer, the other answer I think is microwave broadband WISP. If the FCC would back setting up more WISP providers, perhaps by having the government pay for towers in rural areas, then everyone would have access to the current broadband speeds.

    25mbps is not enough, maybe 20 years ago but certainly not now. 3 Mbps up is also a joke, it seems these numbers have been chosen so all the cable providers can keep pushing out the plans with low uploads. The standard should be 100/100 which will force all of the cable providers to go mid split from low.

    With 25mbps you will be waiting days to downloads 50-60GB games on steam. Forget about Icloud backups at 3mbps heck forget about uploading anything anywhere at those speeds.\

    Starlink is the answer for rural not for densely populated urban area's they don't have the bandwidth for that.

    I can't believe how bad internet is in the US. Some third world countries have it better.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    gggplaya said:
    There's no easy way to roll 100mpbs+ internet to these low density communities without the government stepping in to pay for it or subsidize it.
    Copper land lines and coax are more expensive to maintain and operate than fiber yet most rural areas still have at least one if not both of those. Companies that are already there could definitely do it on their own dime if they actually wanted to, though most prefer just milking whatever they currently have until it breaks beyond economical repair before doing enacting any real change.

    Makaveli said:
    With 25mbps you will be waiting days to downloads 50-60GB games on steam. Forget about Icloud backups at 3mbps heck forget about uploading anything anywhere at those speeds.
    If significantly faster internet comes at significantly higher prices, then there will be a large number of people who are not going to bother with it. I'm doing mostly fine on my 7Mbps DSL as a single guy and I'm not going to waste $200+/year extra on internet access for speed I may wish I had only for a few hours in any given year.
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    InvalidError said:
    Copper land lines and coax are more expensive to maintain and operate than fiber yet most rural areas still have at least one if not both of those. Companies that are already there could definitely do it on their own dime if they actually wanted to, though most prefer just milking whatever they currently have until it breaks beyond economical repair before doing enacting any real change.


    If significantly faster internet comes at significantly higher prices, then there will be a large number of people who are not going to bother with it. I'm doing mostly fine on my 7Mbps DSL as a single guy and I'm not going to waste $200+/year extra on internet access for speed I may wish I had only for a few hours in any given year.

    Well yes to each his own.

    My career is in IT and I have a Fiber connection but I also used cable internet for like 15 years prior to switching to fiber. I couldn't use a 25mbps connection based on my needs I'm not single but I do live alone and I sit on a 1Gbps / 800mbps up connection. Its not just Bandwidth its also latency and the stability of the connection. I've not had a single outage on fiber in almost 4 years. On cable probably has 2-3 a year on a regular.

    I understand there is a cost to roll out to rural area's where the ROI isn't attractive.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    Makaveli said:
    25mbps is not enough, maybe 20 years ago but certainly not now. 3 Mbps up is also a joke, it seems these numbers have been chosen so all the cable providers can keep pushing out the plans with low uploads. The standard should be 100/100 which will force all of the cable providers to go mid split from low.

    With 25mbps you will be waiting days to downloads 50-60GB games on steam. Forget about Icloud backups at 3mbps heck forget about uploading anything anywhere at those speeds.\

    Starlink is the answer for rural not for densely populated urban area's they don't have the bandwidth for that.

    I can't believe how bad internet is in the US. Some third world countries have it better.
    Where do you live? Because rural is the big problem, and probably 80-90 percent of the land area of the US could be categorized as "rural." Even if only a third of the people live in rural areas, getting good internet service to everyone is very difficult and expensive. StarLink might be the answer for such people, but it's also quite expensive and many rural people don't really want to have high speed internet.

    As to the OP, 25Mbps is what I had back in 2000. It was okay then, but I was very happy when I upgraded to 100Mbps. And I was even happier when I moved to (somewhat rural) Colorado last year and went from paying Xfinity (Comcast) $108 per month for 400/12 Mbps service to TDR for $93 per month for 1000/20 Mbps. But I'd really, REALLY like a lot more upstream bandwidth. It's simply not offered, unless you switch to a business plan that costs twice as much and gives you 75/75 Mbps symmetrical. Fiber is supposedly in the works, so hopefully I can move to that eventually.

    Anyway, 25/3 Mbps is usable for some things, sure, but it's not a great experience on a lot of other things. A single Zoom stream is typically 2 Mbps upstream. Many streaming movie and TV services are at least 15-20 Mbps for a single show. Downloading a 100GB game, which there are quite a few such titles now, would require nine hours of continuous 100% use, though, not the "days" suggested by Makaveli. (100GB = 100,000 MB. 25 Mbps = 3.125 MB/s. 100,000 / 3.125 = 32000 seconds. 3600 seconds per hour = 8.888 hours.)

    @InvalidError : I don't know how you can get by with 7 Mbps. That basically eliminates most video streaming, online gaming's a crapshoot, I definitely couldn't work from home with 7 Mbps. I mean, it's fine that you can live with it, but wow. For someone as active as you are on the TH forums, I'm very surprised you're okay with 7 Mpbs!
    Reply
  • gggplaya
    Makaveli said:
    25mbps is not enough, maybe 20 years ago but certainly not now. 3 Mbps up is also a joke, it seems these numbers have been chosen so all the cable providers can keep pushing out the plans with low uploads. The standard should be 100/100 which will force all of the cable providers to go mid split from low.

    With 25mbps you will be waiting days to downloads 50-60GB games on steam. Forget about Icloud backups at 3mbps heck forget about uploading anything anywhere at those speeds.\

    Starlink is the answer for rural not for densely populated urban area's they don't have the bandwidth for that.

    I can't believe how bad internet is in the US. Some third world countries have it better.

    I have gigabit internet, Comcast has mostly upgraded their entire network to handle above 100mbps. Maybe the most rural areas don't have the capacity.

    25mbps will take about 10 hours to download a 100GB game.

    Internet in the United states isn't that bad, our land mass is huge. We are a vast country and the suburbs and urban areas are well served with internet. It's just the rural areas that struggle with internet. The UK internet is horrible compared to the U.S.. They never really had the massive rollout of cable tv like we did in the 80's, so most households are stuck using what they call fiber to the cabinet(FTTC). From the neighborhood cabinet, they use copper telephones lines to the house and they tend to max out at 80mbps for the best cases. Internet there is not great, even in densely populated areas.
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    Where do you live? Because rural is the big problem, and probably 80-90 percent of the land area of the US could be categorized as "rural." Even if only a third of the people live in rural areas, getting good internet service to everyone is very difficult and expensive. StarLink might be the answer for such people, but it's also quite expensive and many rural people don't really want to have high speed internet.

    As to the OP, 25Mbps is what I had back in 2000. It was okay then, but I was very happy when I upgraded to 100Mbps. And I was even happier when I moved to (somewhat rural) Colorado last year and went from paying Xfinity (Comcast) $108 per month for 400/12 Mbps service to TDR for $93 per month for 1000/20 Mbps. But I'd really, REALLY like a lot more upstream bandwidth. It's simply not offered, unless you switch to a business plan that costs twice as much and gives you 75/75 Mbps symmetrical. Fiber is supposedly in the works, so hopefully I can move to that eventually.

    Anyway, 25/3 Mbps is usable for some things, sure, but it's not a great experience on a lot of other things. A single Zoom stream is typically 2 Mbps upstream. Many streaming movie and TV services are at least 15-20 Mbps for a single show. Downloading a 100GB game, which there are quite a few such titles now, would require nine hours of continuous 100% use, though, not the "days" suggested by Makaveli. (100GB = 100,000 MB. 25 Mbps = 3.125 MB/s. 100,000 / 3.125 = 32000 seconds. 3600 seconds per hour = 8.888 hours.)

    @InvalidError : I don't know how you can get by with 7 Mbps. That basically eliminates most video streaming, online gaming's a crapshoot, I definitely couldn't work from home with 7 Mbps. I mean, it's fine that you can live with it, but wow. For someone as active as you are on the TH forums, I'm very surprised you're okay with 7 Mpbs!

    I live in downtown Toronto Canada so yes I do have better options living in the city.

    And yes rural is an issue but I think Starlink is the best option for those folks it just needs to get abit cheaper.

    gggplaya said:
    I have gigabit internet, Comcast has mostly upgraded their entire network to handle above 100mbps. Maybe the most rural areas don't have the capacity.

    25mbps will take about 10 hours to download a 100GB game.

    Internet in the United states isn't that bad, our land mass is huge. We are a vast country and the suburbs and urban areas are well served with internet. It's just the rural areas that struggle with internet. The UK internet is horrible compared to the U.S.. They never really had the massive rollout of cable tv like we did in the 80's, so most households are stuck using what they call fiber to the cabinet(FTTC). From the neighborhood cabinet, they use copper telephones lines to the house and they tend to max out at 80mbps for the best cases. Internet there is not great, even in densely populated areas.

    If comcast 1gbps plan is still 35mbps up they are on a low split and there is no way you are getting 100mbps on coaxial cable with them.

    And ya buddy I ain't waiting 10 hours to download a 100GB game. On my connection I can do that in like 15 mins then I can spend 2 hours playing the game. Then get a shower have dinner watch a movie. While that download is still running on 25mbps...
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    @InvalidError : I don't know how you can get by with 7 Mbps. That basically eliminates most video streaming, online gaming's a crapshoot, I definitely couldn't work from home with 7 Mbps. I mean, it's fine that you can live with it, but wow. For someone as active as you are on the TH forums, I'm very surprised you're okay with 7 Mpbs!
    Streaming up to 1080p works perfectly fine in most places as long as I'm not doing much else at the same time, though most of my streaming is news as background noise and I set that to 360p. The only multi-player game I play is WoW and that peaks at about 2Mbps downstream, so no issue there either. Most of my work is reading spec sheets and writing, not much bandwidth needed for that.
    Reply
  • gggplaya
    InvalidError said:
    Copper land lines and coax are more expensive to maintain and operate than fiber yet most rural areas still have at least one if not both of those. Companies that are already there could definitely do it on their own dime if they actually wanted to, though most prefer just milking whatever they currently have until it breaks beyond economical repair before doing enacting any real change.
    That's why I think Microwave broadband is a good solution. I explored becoming a WISP provider and it doesn't take much to become one. The biggest 2 hurdles are getting a fiber company to run a fiber line to your main tower and getting a giant tower installed or renting tower space. If the government would take care of those 2 hurdles, then becoming a wisp provider would be easy and you can have mom and pop shops providing broadband to rural areas with reasonable speeds at reasonable prices.

    Makaveli said:
    I live in downtown Toronto Canada so yes I do have better options living in the city.

    And yes rural is an issue but I think Starlink is the best option for those folks it just needs to get abit cheaper.

    What's the internet like in Canada outside an urban city? I remember watching a tv special of Canadians complaining about their internet a few years ago. I was amazed at how bad it was compared to the united states, and at double the cost.

    Australia is also a large and vast country, and I know from friends that their internet is really bad as well.

    I'm in the U.S. I technically live in a rural area because my house qualified for a USDA home loan. I'm 2 hours from a major city and well outside the surburbs. I get 1200mbps from comcast and 40mbps upload for $80/mo.
    Reply
  • Peter_Bollwerk
    I'm still frustrated that we haven't started treating broadband like a utility. It's as necessary as electricity and arguably more needed than land lines.
    I don't necessarily think we need 100/20 as the minimum, but we need guaranteed broadband service to 99+% of homes in the US.
    It should be part of our infrastructure and the federal government can subsidize it, if needed.
    I'm almost certain there would be a good ROI on this investment, as it opens up options for people to remotely work ANYWHERE, making for less traffic/etc in cities.
    Reply