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.