Cable Industry Fights New 25 Mbps Broadband Definition Because The Need For Those Speeds Is 'Hypothetical'

from the please-don't-make-us-work-for-our-money dept

We recently noted how the FCC has been making a push to bump the current definition of broadband from where it sits now — around 4 Mbps downstream, and 1 Mbps upstream — to a more modern 25 Mbps downstream, 3 Mbps upstream. Carriers have of course been crying a lot about this, given it will more clearly highlight the lack of effort they’ve been making — especially in the less competitive markets. While U.S. broadband competition is pretty pathetic across the spectrum, several studies lately have shown it’s particularly bad anywhere above 10 Mbps.

Quite unsurprisingly the cable industry has come out in strong opposition to the FCC’s plan in a new NCTA filing (pdf) with the agency:

“…the two parties that specifically urge the Commission to adopt a download speed benchmark of 25 Mbps?Netflix and Public Knowledge?both offer examples of applications that go well beyond the ‘current’ and ‘regular’ uses that ordinarily inform the Commission?s inquiry under Section 706” of the Telecommunications Act. Hypothetical use cases showing the need for 25Mbps/3Mbps “dramatically exaggerate the amount of bandwidth needed by the typical broadband user,” the NCTA said.”

Because really, what kind of boob would want to draft a broadband standard that looks toward the future, right?

Of course, you’d think the cable industry would actually want a higher broadband definition, since its relatively-easy-to-deploy DOCSIS 3.0 (and soon 3.1) technology can achieve those speeds quite easily. That would give them a policy leg up against DSL providers, many of which have struggled with the significantly more expensive upgrade from copper-based network to fiber. And not too surprisingly, Verizon, AT&T and companies like CenturyLink are against raising the standard definition for just those reasons. But there’s something else at play here as well.

If you read Techdirt, you know that DSL providers like AT&T and Verizon are actually backing away from DSL they don’t want to upgrade on a massive scale, meaning we’re entering an era where the cable monopoly is going to be stronger than ever across huge swaths of the country. Under Congressional mandate, the FCC is required to ensure broadband is being deployed in a “reasonable and timely basis.” If the data shows it isn’t (and that’s precisely what the data shows), it gives the FCC legal ammunition in all the current heated broadband fights (net neutrality, municipal broadband). A legally-grounded FCC means less leeway for this growing cable monopoly to abuse its dominant market position, which is why the cable industry would very much like to keep our broadband definition buried somewhere in 2002.

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Companies: comcast, ncta

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Comments on “Cable Industry Fights New 25 Mbps Broadband Definition Because The Need For Those Speeds Is 'Hypothetical'”

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Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Latency (if not the kind from pure distance issues) is caused by poor bandwidth management which is caused by poor network management.

It all comes back full circle.

If you want to really not see latency peaks even if your speed is more than fast enough to handle the connection, get a VPN so they can’t throttle your traffic. HostVPN is my suggestion.

Anonymous Coward says:

If customers aren’t going to use 25 Mbps, then there’s no harm in turning it on for everybody. It’s only a problem if customers actually do want to use services that need very high bandwidth connections.

Plus, nobody has said that they have to make 25 Mbps connections inexpensive, only that they have to be available. Make it available, and charge whatever it is they need to charge.

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Of course 25mb/s is an understatement. 25mb/s upload and download works for one person and all of that person’s devices, assuming they have no more than a few.

If you live anywhere with more than one person (say, in a relationship or a family) – 25mb/s is somewhere between unusable and a joke.

Living with my wife and us both being very connected I find even 100mb/s barely adequate and 10mb/s upstream to be an insult.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Kind of like when they got the FCC to agree to let the wireless carriers brand their not-4G garbage as 4G, and whatever it is that allows ISPs to make you pay for bandwidth “up to x GBPS”, unless the FCC really starts standing up here, it will continue to go the same way with bandwidth.

Never mind that no one really needs to charge more for higher bandwidth. They can deploy modern equipment when aging equipment is replaced anyway. Or un-throttle networks which are limited from using existing higher-bandwidth capabilities. Either way, it’s an artificial scarcity which few industries or markets get to enjoy to such an extent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Officially, 4G is determined by a specific technical standard called IMT-Advanced. For a while, several carriers advertised services that didn’t meet the standard. This was called out by many critics for what it was: Carriers were using terminology that didn’t technically describe the services/technologies they offered, but were using them as buzz words to sell their services. It was a form of false advertising.

Then the ITU changed its tune and declared retroactively that some of these technologies did meet the standard. It still didn’t make the services being sold as good as the ones everyone else was using the term 4G to describe.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Exactly. The philosofical question is clear. What should be the driver:
Demand, which is the argument from the cable industry or the
availability that other innovative tech-industries – particularly livestream and cloudservice – and many others like techdirt and many common users would like.

It all boils down to money in the end: If you have shelled out millions of dollars on equipment with an expected long repay time, it sucks having to replace it by better technology before time.

While this specific definition is a technicality, it can be used to leverage availability over demand and that would be a disaster for those owning the “older” equipment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘it keeps load down’.

As far as the vast majority of users not uploading anything, I think you are wrong there. More and more, even casual users are taking advantage of ‘cloud computing’, which hosts your data on remote servers. Voice of IP, VPNs, photo postings, video chat/uploads, etc… all are currently constrained by the ridiculously low upload bandwidth offered by ISPs.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“I’m not sure what you mean by ‘it keeps load down’.”

It allows carriers to repurpose otherwise unused capacity (the uploading direction) and use it for the download direction. This lets them reduce costs by not deploying capacity which isn’t needed.

It’s true that people are uploading more than before because of all those things, but it’s also true that the vast majority of consumer traffic remains downloading, not uploading.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

It allows carriers to repurpose otherwise unused capacity (the uploading direction) and use it for the download direction. This lets them reduce costs by not deploying capacity which isn’t needed.

I don’t think so. The bandwidth of the copper/fiber in the last mile is not limited in either direction, (it’s the service tier and/or equipment that sets your speed,) and interconnection/transit is nearly always symmetrical.

Jason says:

Plus, nobody has said that they have to make 25 Mbps connections inexpensive, only that they have to be available. Make it available, and charge whatever it is they need to charge.

I’m not sure I’d want to go down that road, not without a lot of caution. It seems ripe for abuse.

I wish I could remember where I read it (it may have been a Techdirt article) but it reminds me of the gist of an argument about streaming availability of (I think it was) TV shows. Basically, they’re “available” only in the most obtuse sense, no matter how ridiculously difficult they are to use, especially compared to unofficial alternatives. But it gives the studios cover to say “See, it’s available legally, clearly no one wants it!” even though they’re entirely misrepresenting the problem.

My (cable) broadband has an advertised speed of 30 Mbps, and it certainly isn’t “cheap” but I think it’s a far better value than I get from the TV part of the bill. I can pull pretty steadily at 23-24 Mbps on good days too, so the price bothers me even less. I don’t always need speeds like that but when I do it makes all the difference in the world.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So they are providing you 78% of what you purchased and you are happy with them?

Think how that would go over in other industries:
78% of the car works
78% of the soda in the bottle
78% of that anesthetic while they are doing 78% of your surgery

How have they trained you to think what you are getting is actually good?

Jason says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m not sure I’d use the word “happy”, but I’m not angry about it either.

I wish I could download anything from anywhere at that speed, but I accept that the 30 Mbps connection they’re selling me is really only between me and their hub. (Which, for the record, does test out at basically a full 30 Mbps.) I don’t necessarily expect every site I’m downloading from to be able to max out that pipe even if the last part of the link can handle it.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m not sure I’d want to go down that road, not without a lot of caution. It seems ripe for abuse.

The real solution, as always, is competition. If you had a choice of say 6 different ISPs, it would cost a lot of money to get a 25Mbp/s connection only if that connection is actually expensive to deliver to you. Otherwise some of the competitors would drop their prices to get your business. It’s only because of the oligopoly that we have to worry about abuse. The FCC seems to be moving in the right direction, but I think we’re still a long way from real competition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ugh

I have a DSL connection considerably slower than that — and I know Verizon would love, love, love to shut it down. Which will force us to Comcast, because there are absolutely no other alternatives. (I know. I’ve looked. Thoroughly, included wireless.)

I dread that day. Because then Comcast will have us by the balls and I have no doubt that they will force us to buy bundled services we don’t want and will raise prices every year.

Joel Coehoorn says:

Yes, but

Let me first say that I support the FCC’s reclassification. I believe that increasing the mark to 25/3 will have a great positive impact, for exactly the reason described here: it will expose the real situation in this country in terms of lack of competition and service.

That out of the way, I don’t really believe that 25/3 is needed for broadband. My current connection is only 6/.5, but I find that perfectly adequate for Netflix, gaming, and even some VPN use. I work in IT, and regularly need to transfer real data over that connection between my home and my office. I’ll admit that I wouldn’t mind seeing my upload speed increased to full megabit, but if the connection is clear and the ISP is not oversubscribed, even just 6/1 is perfectly find. And if we’re defining “basic” broadband, I think 3/.5 should cut.

The difference is in semantics. The FCC is using broadband as a term to mean “premium internet service”. However, in this day and age, broadband doesn’t need to mean “premium” any more. Most consumers feel like they only need basic internet service, but they still feel like a broadband connection should be part of that.

In an ideal world, the FCC would define and report on both levels. Given the world we live in, a 25/3 reclassification sounds reasonable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Yes, but

The problem is that newer technologies and online services are assuming greater bandwidth availability, so while 6/.5 is fine for you now, it won’t be in a few years. And for a large family with multiple devices (think of dad watching an HD movie on one device while the kids are playing online games on another and mom is somewhere else streaming her shows), that wouldn’t cut it now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Yes, but

And when video conferences start to become standard the comfortable upload would need to be at least 2 mbps, preferrably 3. When other equipment in your house/flat/apartment/room etc. starts to need bandwidth it starts to tax download too. I know cable TV running through net-connection and eating about 4 mbps download. While refrigerator, water meter ao. will need considerably less in the near future you don’t need many of those devices to get your effective connection down to your standards.

I use these examples because I know they exist today and I know many industries would love to use these potentials a lot more in the future. Since broadband definition is mostly about future needs 25/3 is by no means unreasonable from a use case perspective even in less than 10 years.

I know they use access to 100/30 in 2020 as a service goal for 100 % of the population here. Those numbers are set by the cable companies and they even admit it is possible to go higher with a higher investment! That cable companies in the USA are fighting 25/3 mbps is a question of protecting their investments and avoiding too many new ones.

DannyB (profile) says:

Simultaneous Netflix viewers

It is perfectly reasonable to expect that several members of the household might use their TVs to watch Netflix.

(Now just watch the cable tv industry say it isn’t reasonable while at the same time saying that it is reasonable to expect to watch several cable tv channels at the same time. Of course, these are the dinosaurs who seemed to think there should be a monthly fee per cable tv outlet rather than a one time installation fee per outlet. Maybe you should have to pay your cable provider per Netflix stream you use — after all you are using their network service?)

sophisticatedjanedoe (profile) says:

Copyright troll Evan Stone said in 2012:

There is no commercially available service that can even take advantage of the top-tier bandwidth. You don’t need 50Mbps down to use Hulu, Netflix, iTunes or anything. Who the hell pays for 50Mbps down? P2P file-sharers. That’s who pays. That’s on the Internet side, they’re making profits from those who want to file-share.

Different people, same song.

Anonymous Coward says:

using a bit of a comparison then, the car that the head of Comcast drives is way too big, too thirsty and has a separate driver. that isn’t necessary so when is it being returned and replaced by a Mini? i bet that wont happen and all this ridiculous spouting is for is to be able to charge maximum bucks for minimal service. if there is no need for 25mps or any other speed, why advertise you broadband as ‘super fast’? why is there any need to keep building faster networks if they are not needed?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Asynchronous internet access is ignoring the fact that people are just as much creators of content as they are consumers of content.

Citation needed. Not to be snarky, but I really doubt home users are uploading as much as they’re downloading. For example, Netflix is over a third of peak internet usage in the US, and that’s all in one direction.

Greevar (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You can’t use lots of upstream if you don’t have it. That’s no different than saying nobody wants to speed when every car is locked at a top speed of 5mph. There’s cloud storage, personal streaming video channels, bit-torrent, home cloud server, using your home network as a VPN when using public wifi, working remotely, hosting a WAN party, and so on. Let’s not forget that several people could be using that upstream bandwidth at the same time.

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