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Definition of ‘Broadband’ Made Faster by FCC

Jan. 29, 2015
Personal Finance
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Broadband Internet access just got faster — in a way.

The definition of “broadband” was increased to download speeds of 25 megabits per second by the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday. That’s up from a mere 4 Mbps, which was the standard set in 2010.

That speed “is dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way,” the commission said in a news release.

Under the new standard, 17% of all Americans, and half of those living in rural areas, lack access to high-speed broadband Internet access.

In 1996, Congress defined broadband as “high quality” Internet capability that allows users to “originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video” services.

The commission also increased the defined minimum upload speed for broadband, from 1 Mbps to 3 Mbps.

Commissioners have been working to expand broadband throughout the entire United States. Last week during his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said he would work to make high-speed Internet   available to more people, calling it a requirement “so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

FCC member Jessica Rosenworcel called Thursday’s vote a good first step, but said there’s more work to do to put the United States on par with some other nations.

“Let’s stop dreaming small & instead dream big,” she wrote on Twitter. “Good that  (is) raising threshold to 25 Mbps–but we should aim higher: 100 Mbps.”

The ruling will affect which Internet service providers can advertise their offerings as broadband. As such, the effort had been opposed by cable companies that offer Internet service. DSL Internet service, which is delivered over telephone lines, will in most cases not be considered broadband under the new standard.

In a letter to the FCC, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association argued that “the level of service necessary to enable such uses of broadband — including video streaming, gaming, voice-over-Internet-protocol, social media, and other applications — is well below the 25 Mbps/3 Mbps threshold currently under consideration.”

The commission approved the change in a 3-2 vote.

Image via iStock.