Senators Whine About FCC's 25 Mbps Broadband Standard, Insist Nobody Needs That Much Bandwidth

from the lowering-the-bar dept

Just about a year ago, the FCC voted to raise the base definition of broadband from 4 Mbps downstream, 1 Mbps upstream — to 25 Mbps downstream, 3 Mbps upstream. This, of course, annoyed the nation’s mega providers, since the higher standard highlights the lack of competition and next-generation upgrades in countless markets. It especially annoyed the nation’s phone companies, given that the expensive, sub-6 Mbps DSL foisted upon millions of customers can no longer even technically be called broadband.

Fast forward a year and the broadband providers’ favorite politicians in the House are still whining about the improved definition. In a letter sent to the FCC last week (pdf), the six senators complained that the FCC is on a mad power grab, using a crazy and arbitrary new definition to saddle broadband providers with all manner of onerous regulations. Besides, argued the six Senators, 25 Mbps is more than any American consumer could ever possibly need:

“Looking at the market for broadband applications, we are aware of few applications that require download speeds of 25 Mbps. Netflix, for example, recommends a download speed of 5 Mbps to receive high-definition streaming video, and Amazon recommends a speed of 3.5 Mbps. In addition, according to the FCC’s own data, the majority of Americans who can purchase 25 Mbps choose not to.”

Focusing on the fact that a single Netflix stream eats just 3.5 to 5 Mbps ignores the fact that broadband connections serve an entire house of hungry users, many of whom will be gobbling significantly more bandwidth using any number of services and connected devices. It’s also worth pointing out that a single Netflix Ultra HD stream can eat 25 Mbps all by itself. And on the upstream side of the equation, the FCC’s definition of 3 Mbps remains relatively last-generation and arguably pathetic. Similarly, many consumers may not buy 25 Mbps because the lack of competition can result in high prices for faster tiers.

In other words, claiming 25 Mbps is some kind of “arbitrary,” pie-in-the-sky standard is absurd.

Of course, the Senators don’t really care about technical specifics, they’re just blindly echoing the broadband industry’s annoyance that the FCC is now actually highlighting the lack of broadband competition in the market. They’re specifically bothered by this recent FCC study, which notes that two-thirds of U.S. households lack the choice of more than one ISP at speeds of 25 Mbps or greater. Companies like AT&T and Verizon also don’t like how this data highlights the fact they’re giving up on rural America and many second- and third-tier cities, freezing broadband deployments and in some cases even refusing to repair aging infrastructure.

And while it’s certainly true the higher standard helps prop up the FCC’s Congressional mandate to ensure quality broadband is deployed in a “reasonable and timely” basis (and by proxy its Title II reclassification), a lot of the FCC’s efforts have quietly involved eliminating regulation, ranging from streamlining tower placement and pole attachment regulations, to eliminating the kind of awful state level protectionist laws that keep municipal and public/private broadband networks from taking root in incumbent duopolist territories.

At the end of the day, incumbent providers and the politicians who love them are simply annoyed that the FCC has any standards whatsoever, since that makes it immeasurably harder to pretend that the nation’s broadband competition and connectivity issues don’t exist.

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Companies: at&t, verizon

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Comments on “Senators Whine About FCC's 25 Mbps Broadband Standard, Insist Nobody Needs That Much Bandwidth”

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Jason says:

How are these people in charge of anything?

I was going to make a detailed argument about peak advertised speeds not being achievable in real life, the lower quality of video streams I have personally observed when on a 6 Mbps connection (20% faster than I “need”, apparently), or a number of other finer points.

But frankly, there’s no reason to. Why should I bother arguing about broadband speeds with Senators who brag about how they never use email?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: So the old saying is true.

Sadly this is not a joke.

People will refuse, right down until they are destroyed by their own government, to accept that the #1 enemy to a free state is the government itself and that the majority of their problems are in fact caused by the government.

People refuse to understand that politicians are the ones that created these problems they keep telling you that they need to solve.

People refuse to understand that we no longer have a free market, and that regulatory agencies are providing nothing but faux regulation.

Yes we need regulation, but only regulation that PREVENTS monopolies, multi national businesses, and destruction of the ecology. The free market should have been left to self regulate the rest… but we no longer even have a free market because ‘The People’ are sold out to political greed on a level that is even worse the the politicians.

‘We The People’ keep blaming politicians while sucking on the the 2-party systems udders of insanity. We love corrupt politicians that will lie cheat and steel for what we believe in then lambaste those other guys when they do something underhanded against what we want and would rather die upon a spit than to offer up our own corrupt political critter for nothing more than silly partisan bigotry.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

Re: Re: So the old saying is true.

“Government” is not the problem, people who won’t engage in the democratic process then whine about the government are.

There is no free market and I’d be very surprised if anyone could demonstrate that there has ever been one. The market can’t self-regulate and you can’t vote with your money if the other guy has already taken it: you can only vote with what you’ve got left over.

The only way to create and enforce regulations is via a government and the only way to ensure that these are in our interests is to engage in the democratic process to put pressure on legislators to ensure this. Mark my words: the corporatists are already doing this; they’re more engaged than we are.

I know blaming the government is an American pastime but it doesn’t solve any problems. Instead, we should be leveraging government to get what we want. You know, like the corporations do. Pressure works. The trick is to keep the pressure on. If you can’t be bothered to do that, don’t complain about the consequences.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, they argue that they have to maintain two residences, one at home and one in DC. So, that’s $50K for the home residence, $50K for the DC residence, and $74K for hookers and blow.

That $50K for the DC residence seems a bit low as DC real estate is fairly pricey. Don’t know about the home residences. The $74K for hookers and blow seems a bit low too, high priced hookers are…high priced.

So, if it weren’t for multitudes of lobbyists picking up various tabs for them, they might actually need a raise.

Oh, and since they get hookers and blow, there is no need to stream their porn, so once again they live in a different world than the rest of us and cannot perceive what we might need.

/s…I think!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

…they have to maintain two residences, one at home and one in DC. So, that’s $50K for the home residence, $50K for the DC residence…

I see the sarcasm tag, but in reality try finding any residence anywhere in the US for $50,000.00. Not to mention all of DC’s real estate prices/leases are extortionately high.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Congress salary = ( state median income ) + ( ( ( total state taxes paid to federal government ) – (federal money spent in state ) ) *.10 )

If their state receives more than it paid in, 10% of the difference is deducted from their pay.

If their state receives less than it paid in 10% of the difference is added to their salary.

This should be ample incentive to get the budget balanced and possibly eliminate back room deals since they would not be necessary to pad their salaries.

Also they have incentive to do what the population wants so they can get reelected. If they cut a bunch of spending programs to paddle their salary they are not likely to get elected.

David says:

more than any American consumer could ever possibly need

640kB is more than any user would ever need.

I remember seeing a computer club broadcast that was delivering both DOS and MacIntosh news. The first part demonstrated how with the new version of MSDOS, you could now work with something like 700kB in your application. The latter part demonstrated how with the new version of MacOS you could use virtual memory so that you were not confined to using the 8MB real memory installed in your computer.

They were equally serious and committed to both reports, delivered by the same persons, and with perfect sincerity. If anything, they were more enthusiastic about the DOS computers. Well, and of course with extension boards and interrupt conflicts and whatnot, there was a lot more material for a hands-on broadcast.

But at any rate, the “fallen behind so much that it isn’t even funny any more, but this is what we are proud of” angle that struck me with that broadcast sounds a lot like what America is aiming for with its broadband.

mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: more than any American consumer could ever possibly need

In 88 or 89, there was an internal struggle at Data General where the UNIX group wanted the PC group to push DG-UX (DG’s UNIX) over DOS (I think DG had their own branded version of MS-DOS). The DOS group won by asserting that the PC world would never accept an operating system that required 4MB of RAM and 10 MB of hard drive space. Within 3-4 years, Windows was there.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: more than any American consumer could ever possibly need

Those of us who’ve been around since ARPAnet days have had multiple chances to make the mistake of under-forecasting demand for bandwidth. Some of us (like me) have taken advantage of those chances and have proven wrong much faster than we thought we’d be.

High-bandwidth connections enable experiments (and later, production) in new services. What are those? I don’t know. But I do know that they’ll never happen [b]unless[/b] high-bandwidth connections are widely available at sensible cost. We (the US) are already far behind the curve, thanks to the lack of competition; I’d like to see the FCC raising the bar 5G a year every year, because that’s easily achievable by providers — if only they bother to try.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Ok....

Lets drop their staffers phones to the blazing 1.5k down 384k up I enjoy.

The idiots pushing this do not use the technology, but if we force the rest of their world to those speeds perhaps they would understand.
Grandpa I can’t watch my tv show.
Grandma I can’t read this thing I need for school.
Sir, we can’t get logged into bank to see if your payment arrived in the Caymans.

Congress is the pinnacle of it isn’t happening to me, so it is not a problem. They don’t think cable companies need to clean things up because they have a special 24/7 helpline to fix their issues, while regular people can wait weeks for help (or just go to the media to get the name on the bill to stop being a swear word). They have no problems and these nice people are handing them money to ignore a few naysayers, so what is the harm?

They are so far removed from the reality they pass laws affecting, the only way to fix this would be to knock them off of their pedestals.
Imagine if their healthcare was run by the VA, the same level soldiers get… how fast would there be real reform?
Imagine if they didn’t get pensions for life, and had to deal with the idea of not having enough.
Imagine if they had to pay for their own gas and parking.
Imagine if they made minimum wage or hell even 3 times, they might understand how they have screwed citizens from their marble and gold leaf offices.

Simple law fixes things…they can have nothing better than the least of our society. Think things would improve dramatically quickly?

This is a combination of being bought off, and having no clue how the real world works… how can they represent us when they have no clue how the rest of us actually live?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Elephant in the room

Congress critters better start worrying about their re-elections. It is exactly such corruption that has the public pissed off about the current mainstream candidates that the rich are so upset over not making it to the nomination as the lead candidate.

The public is fed up with what comes down to legal bribery and they are not voting for the favored race horses. Incumbent has become a dirty word in the world of politics during the election year.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: US not even ranked in top 10 countries based on internet speeds

America is hell bent on selling out it heritage.

Multiculturalism, Political Correctness, and the idea that we owe other nations for our success will destroy America in less than another century unless something changes.

Europe bought into these ideals a long time before America did and they will be nearly destroyed in the next 50 years as they are culturally replaced by foreigners that grow at rates far beyond the stagnant European Family.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: US not even ranked in top 10 countries based on internet speeds

America is hell bent on selling out it heritage.

Multiculturalism, Political Correctness, and the idea that we owe other nations for our success will destroy America in less than another century unless something changes.

Europe bought into these ideals a long time before America did and they will be nearly destroyed in the next 50 years as they are culturally replaced by foreigners that grow at rates far beyond the stagnant European Family.

Donald Trump, go home. You’re drunk.

Anonymous Coward says:

The problem is that the FCC is looking forward while the senators are looking backwards.
The FCC is seeing what new tech is coming out, demanding new bandwidth and speeds and seeing how debilitated our current infrastructure is to support it.
The senators are looking back at the days of AOL and dialup saying it was good enough for me in my day, it’s good enough for everyone now and into the future.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Now there’s an idea. One that Congress will really get behind.

The Strategic Bandwidth Reserve (SBR). This new legislation will mandate the preservation of bandwidth to be stored in selected locations (for example there is an existing place in Utah under consideration). The bandwidth will be released only when market prices fail to maintain telcom/cableco profits and then will only be used as a teaser to return the demand/profit ratio to new highs and then will again be cut off. Each user will contribute 25% of their bandwidth and store it in the nearest facility for the governments determination of future usage. Production of bandwidth will be controlled under the guidelines of the Telcom/Tableco Profit Ratio Enablement Act which will provide the basis for use of stored bandwidth sequestered by SBR.

Whatever (profile) says:

“Focusing on the fact that a single Netflix stream eats just 3.5 to 5 Mbps ignores the fact that broadband connections serve an entire house of hungry users,”

How many single installations are being used for 5 simultaneous netflix streams, anyway? The average US household size is 2.6, which suggests that two streams would be more than enough for most installations – assuming everyone is home and downloading at the same time.

Reality is that 10meg per second would be more than most would use in normal day to day stuff. 25 meg a second of course is better, but hey, so is 50meg or 1 gig – why not aim high?

While I agree that the existing “standard” is low, it’s pretty arbitrary for the FCC to suddenly decide 25 meg is the standard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There was once a time when 256k/128k was considered broadband. That eventually gave way to 4mb/1mb. 25mb/4mb may indeed be arbitrary, but it does fall in line with many of the large MSO’s mid-tier offerings. I have Bright House Networks as my provider, and currently have their 35mb/2mb connection. While I do stream quite a bit of video and audio, and often have multiple active streams (particularly during College Football Season or severe weather events). More importantly, I rely on a network extender for my mobile phone, which requires a large amount of upstream bandwidth. I had trouble with the network extender when I was on the original 10/1 plan (when I first moved here, it was 7/1, they later upped it to 10/1, and they’ve more recently changed their base offering to 15/1). Honestly, I wish I had a 4 megabit upstream connection, because if my wife and I are both on a phone call and trying to use the internet, there is a noticeable drop in throughput and call quality, even with a 2 megabit upstream connection.

Years ago, I as living in an apartment and had AT&T’s “FastAccess” DSL service. I could only get their 3mb down/384k up service. It was relatively slow, even by 2006 standards for our market. Charter and Knology (now WoW) both offered faster service for equal or lesser monthly prices, but the apartment complex had an exclusivity contract with one cable company.

Pushing for a 25 meg downstream connection as a universal minimum standard is not a bad baseline. True, not all households will fully saturate it, but you never want to saturate any network to full capacity on a continual basis. There will always be some customers that wish to purchase a faster, higher throughput connection, and some customers that wish to have a lower-cost, more minimal connection. Unfortunately, in this country, we are more often faced with decreasing competition, increasing price, fewer product choices, and little recourse other than to simply accept abuse and open our wallets.

tek'a says:

Re: Re:

Would you guess that the size of netflix streams and other in-demand on-demand services will get smaller, stay the same or increase over the next 2, 5, 10 years? Will we use more or less of them in any given household?

Should we take the internet providers (known liars) word for what they actually provide when pretty much every consumer reports lower-than-sold speeds? That “more than enough” 25meg connection could be substantially less for the end user.

You can’t simply throw up your hands “oh, it’s arbitrary” and choose stasis instead, handicapping all advancement beyond things that someone claims to be “enough” because it is in their business interest to do so.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While I agree that the existing “standard” is low, it’s pretty arbitrary for the FCC to suddenly decide 25 meg is the standard.

How do you figure? Just because they didn’t supply you personally with all of the data and/or research they may have used to arrive at that figure, it’s arbitrary? You don’t think maybe they looked around at, just for instance, the rest of the civilized world? You do know that the US is basically in the stone age of broadband, compared to other first world countries?

Assel says:

According to

Roy Blunt (R-MO): $55,700 from Comcast, $26,000 from AT&T, $21,500 from Verizon.

Steven Daines (R-MT): $15,000 from AT&T, $13,500 from Comcast, $13,000 from DirecTV (now AT&T)

Deb Fischer (R-NE): $20,000 from Deutsche Telekom (T-mobile); $16,000 from National Cable & Telecommunications Assn; $15,250 from Comcast; $15,000 from AT&T; $13,750 from Cox Enterprises; $13,000 from Verizon; $9,500 from National Telecommunications Cooperative Assn; $9,150 from CenturyLink; $7,500 from Cellular Telecom & Internet Assn

Cory Gardner (R-CO): $ 27,600 from CenturyLink; $23,000 from National Cable & Telecommunications Assn; $23,000 from AT&T; $20,500 from DirecTV (now AT&T); $18,350 from Comcast; $16,500 from tw telecom.

Ron Johnson (R-WI): $15,000 from Verizon; $10,000 from National Cable & Telecommunications Assn; $10,000 from AT&T

Roger Wicker (R-MS): $36,500 from Cox Enterprises; $32,500 from Comcast; $27,000 from National Cable & Telecommunications Assn; $17,000 from AT&T; $11,500 from Verizon; $10,500 from Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile); $10,000 from Time Warner Cable

MadMason says:

So out of touch with reality.

These people are so out of touch it’s sickening. I’m sure most have no idea how any of this works and if so they’re out of touch with how many internet-connected devices are in homes. 5MB is great, for ONE device. Throw in a smart TV or two, two cellphones a kindle and an ipad… oh and a Computer and whats 5MB get you? Nothing.

These people are out of touch and live up in shiny castles with no grip on true reality.

Eldakka (profile) says:

They do have a point...

While I agree with and believe that 25Mbps is a better definition of broadband than the old 6Mbps, I can see why the ISPs would be “miffed” with this reclassification.

When the government comes out with a standard, ANY standard, then business will conform with that standard (leaving out the typical cost-cutting, dodging, and out-right fraud elements that is…).

If the building code says you have to have build to a specific standard, buildings will be built to that standard, not beyond that standard. They won’t build a typical house or building to take a magnitude 9 earthquake, because the standard doesn’t require them to build to withstand a magnitude 9 quake.

If a road-construction contractor is contracted to build a 4-lane highway that can take 5000 cars/hour, support trucks of up to 60feet long and weighing 50tonnes, they are NOT going to build a 6-lane highway that can handle 10000 cars/hour and can support 100foot-long 120tonne trucks.

If the FCC says you have to build out the broadband network, and they define broadband as 6Mbps…well they are going to invest in ADSL1-equivalent technologies and build their communications networks to handle ADSL1 loads. They are not going invest in/buy ADSL2+, DOCSIS3, FTTN, FTTP etc. Why? Because they built to the standard as laid down.

Changing the standard then running around saying “you don’t comply to the standard” is a tad unfair.

They should have incrementally changed the standard over a number of years – 10Mbps, 3 years later 15Mbps, 3 years later 20Mbps… and so on, and let the ISP/Telco’s know that was their plan and timetable.

Of course, if there was actual and real competition in the market this would not be an issue…

Vladilyich (profile) says:


I just tested my current bandwidth (using CNET) and it is right where it normally is: 17.82 down, 10.69 up. I have my telephone and “cable” TV on the same line and am currently watching the superbowl (that slows down a little).

This is my ISP’s (Bell Canada) standard speed, nothing extra. I get all of those services through one connection for a little over $80 CAD per month.

Your Comcasts, Time Warners, ands Verizons are lying through their teeth. Later this year they plan on adding another fibre optic cable and they say my speeds should double (50 down, 30 up).

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