FCC Redefines Broadband As 25 Mbps, Angering Broadband Industry Perfectly Happy With Previous, Pathetic Standard

from the stop-whining-and-get-to-work dept

For a few months now, the FCC has been hinting that it was preparing to raise the base definition of broadband, and now it has officially made it happen. Voting 3-2 along party lines (because having goals is a partisan issue, you know), the agency declared that we’re officially raising the standard definition of broadband from 4 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up to 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up. That means, with the flip of a pdf announcement (pdf), millions of you technically no longer have broadband. In fact, with the FCC’s decision the number of unserved broadband households has jumped from around 6% to somewhere around 20%.

That’s largely thanks to the millions of users stuck on last-generation DSL in markets where phone companies lack the competitive incentive to upgrade. Placing greater attention on cable’s growing broadband monopoly as AT&T and Verizon back away from unwanted DSL markets (to focus on wireless) was part of the agency’s goal. Not only do these companies not want to upgrade these DSL lines, they’re paying for state laws that ensure nobody else can either. It’s a paradigm that’s needed smashing for most of the last decade, and few thought that Wheeler, a former cable and wireless lobbyist, was going to be the one to do it.

Wheeler’s gathering ammunition as he heads into a contentious fight over net neutrality and municipal broadband next month. As mandated by Congress, the FCC is required to ensure that broadband is being deployed in a “reasonable and timely” basis. As numerous studies the last few months have shown, the lack of any competition at faster speeds is a pretty clear indication that’s not happening. In fact, as the FCC has repeatedly noted, three quarters of homes lack the choice of more than one ISP at speeds of 25 Mbps or above. Despite all the hype about 1 Gbps, just 3% have access to such speeds.

Not too surprisingly, the FCC’s moves have upset a broadband industry that’s been perfectly happy with the standards bar being set at ankle height. Just as it did when the FCC raised the definition from 200 kbps to 768 kbps in 2008, and again from 786kbps to 4 mbps in 2010, the broadband industry is complaining that the latest definition simply isn’t fair. The NCTA was quick to issue a statement calling the 25 Mbps arbitrary and claiming it paints an “inaccurate” picture of the broadband market. TechFreedom similarly declared the FCC’s bar raising to be the very worst sort of villainy:

TechFreedom has amusingly been making the rounds lately trying to argue that because DSL can, in some instances, be upgraded to VDSL, that it somehow means the broadband industry is incredibly competitive. To make that point they’re not only ignoring the distance constraints of DSL, but that AT&T and Verizon have actually been slashing their fixed-line CAPEX budgets like it’s going out of style, in some cases willfully driving their unwanted DSL users to cable with a one-two punch of apathy and price hikes. I like to believe I’m tolerant of a lot of arguments, but pretending the broadband industry is fiercely competitive isn’t one of them.

Dissenting Republic Commissioners Ajit Pai (a former Verizon regulatory lawyer) and Mike O’Reilly were similarly outraged by the higher bar. In fact, it was O’Reilly that offered up the most convoluted, ridiculous defense of the status quo all day:

“Taking his argument against changing the broadband standard into deep space, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said “the report notes that 4K TV requires 25Mbps, but 4K TV is still relatively new and is not expected to be widely adopted for years to come. While the statute directs us to look at advanced capability, this stretches the concept to an untenable extreme. Some people, for example, believe probably incorrectly that we are on a path to interplanetary teleportation. Should we include the estimated bandwidth for that as well?”

Right, because when drafting policy standards, who in their right mind would want them to be forward looking? If we have a feeble definition, like say oh, 1 Mbps with a 2 GB monthly cap, everyone technically has broadband and we can all go home and drink whiskey sours, thrilled with the false knowledge that the United States is a broadband powerhouse. But a standard of 25 Mbps? That makes it harder than ever for the usual assortment of status quo apologists to continue hallucinating that the U.S. broadband market is fiercely competitive.

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Comments on “FCC Redefines Broadband As 25 Mbps, Angering Broadband Industry Perfectly Happy With Previous, Pathetic Standard”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You see the answer from “Techfreedom”: Government agencies should never take any even remotely politically controversial decission in enforcing the law, leading to them not being able to enforce the law, so law is to be meaningless and eventually removed.

Am I the only one seeing that tags thinking as a very good reason against accepting status quo?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You forgot the fact that Idjit Paid and Michael O’Really (not their actual name, but close enough) voted against the public interest in this measure.

Idjit Paid claimed that it was ‘executive overreach,’ and Michael O’Really claimed that it was ‘shifting the goalposts,’ like the technological advances mean nothing to the public.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Michael O’Really claimed that it was ‘shifting the goalposts,’ like the technological advances mean nothing to the public.

Isn’t that explicitly the point of this announcement? Moving the goal further ahead to push the industry to improve? What does he think, we should leave the goal at 4mbps until 2100 when we reach 100% broadband coverage, and only move it then?

Vladilyich (profile) says:

Re: I'd LOVE to have 4M/1M

I “upgraded” two days ago. My ISP had been urging me to do this for over a year because they want to dump the DSL and switch everybody to Fibre. It came out to 50% what I had been paying for DSL alone and it included wireless Internet, unlimited usage bandwidth, AND 125 digital television channels with DVR (also on the wireless with two TVs included)meaning I also dumped my cable provider. All of this for $79/month. I just tested my up/down speed on CNET and I went from 5Mbps to 14Mbps. I was told that should increase to 25Mbps by the end of the year as soon as they phase out all of their DSL people.

Togashi (profile) says:

“Some people, for example, believe probably incorrectly that we are on a path to interplanetary teleportation. Should we include the estimated bandwidth for that as well?”

When interplanetary teleportation exists and is mere years away from being widely adopted, yes we most definitely should. We have the capability for 4k streaming right now, we should allow for it in our numbers now. Next question?

Anonymous Coward says:

anyone like to have a count up to see roughly how many industries there are in the USA that pay politicians and law makers to keep them out in front, while doing nothing themselves to advance any technology or service but everything to stop anyone/everyone else? two industries straight away, the entertainment industries and the pharma. what should happen is those politicians etc who are doing whatever the industries want, which obviously harms customers but keeps the future of the services where they want and not where they should be, should be shamed into leaving their position and made to pay the slush money to charity! now that would be something worth seeing!!

Anonymous Coward says:

I am constantly amazed that these telcoms drag out that they are competitive and that the present speeds are more than adequate. Evidently they don’t live in a household with kids and all their connected devices, such as phones, tablets, and laptops. All of which take a portion of that internet broadband speed on any single account.

So you have momma with her devices, poppa, and the kids and suddenly 4 megs down is suddenly back in the days of 56k speeds; too slow for all to use.

Were Google suddenly to come to town, these incumbent telcos would be facing the same dilemma they now face where Google is active. That is to say, how to keep the customers they have pissed off and pissed on regularly. The sudden concern with slow speeds and high prices shows it for what it is. Monopoly gouging at it’s finest.

madasahatter (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The problem is that local governments have granted monopolies to cable companies so there is no real competition for cable only between different technologies. In some areas there is real competition because the technologies have roughly the same capabilities while in many there is only game in town if there is one at all.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This. It’s just another example of the telecoms lying.

Every single time that they trot out this “nobody needs that much bandwidth” argument, they do the math based on a single person doing a single thing at a time. In my household, this is rarely the case.

They have to lie by omission in this way because if they didn’t, they’d have no argument.

Zonker says:

How odd it is then that when I looked up FIOS internet offerings in my area just two days ago the only plans available were 15 and 25 Mbps at a considerably higher price than my recently upgraded from 50 Mbps to 100 Mbps (only about two weeks ago) from Comcast.

I wish I had thought to capture screenshots, because when I looked up their offerings today they have been changed to “Now 30 Mbps (was 15 Mbps)” and “Now 50 Mbps (was 25 Mbps)” plans at the same high prices.

Hard to prove cause and effect, but it would seem to me that the recent moves by the FCC may be actually in improving our bandwidth speeds in the area already (well, their advertised speeds at least).

Dave Howe (profile) says:

Technology does move on, and..

It is good that providers should be looking to provide parity, not just keep legacy kit and offer “take it or leave it”. However providing 25MBs is probably not that practical out in the sticks, even if it is in central urban areas.

Perhaps a spread of offerings would be more sensible?

Less than 4 down or .5 up – “Low Speed” Internet, or indeed any marketing term they choose to use, provided it doesn’t include the word “broadband” anywhere in it

4 down, 0.5 up – “Basic” Broadband (not allowed to be called just “broadband”, always this combo)

10 down, 1.5 up – “Standard” Broadband, or just “broadband”, but not the terms set out below for 20+

20 down or better – “Advanced”/”High Speed” broadband, and/or marketable as “broadband-nn” where “nn” is the lower of download speed *or* 8xUpload speed; so you could advertise “broadband-25” provided upload was over 3mb.

with the -nn notation, providers can then compete on advertised speed with other providers, without having to worry about definition of terms?

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