While we wait for the details
of President-Elect Obama's "broadband stimulus" package to emerge, one aspect of such a plan hasn't gotten a lot of attention: just exactly what the government will consider to be a broadband connection. For a long time, the FCC considered anything that delivered over 200kbps downstream to be broadband, though last year, it raised
the minimum cutoff to 768kbps. It's not a coincidence that's the minimum speed offered by many cable modem or DSL providers, making it seem as if the government standards were shoehorned
to fit the market, rather than designed to encourage any growth or higher levels of service. So a key part of any broadband plan will be
where the administration sets the bar
for what's considered broadband, and what will be eligible for the government benefits. For what it's worth, Qwest has said broadband should be considered to be a minimum of 7Mbps, corresponding to service it's currently rolling out. It doesn't seem likely that the government would make the leap from 768kbps to 7Mbps in one fell swoop, but only by setting the minimum at a reasonable level -- and holding incumbent telcos to their commitments -- will broadband policy stand a chance of being effective.