Congressmen Upton, Walden Latest To Insist Nobody Needs Faster Broadband

from the please-lower-your-standards dept

A little over a year ago, the FCC voted to raise the minimum definition of broadband from 4 Mbps downstream, 1 Mbps upstream — to 25 Mbps downstream, 3 Mbps upstream. The standard better reflects household usage in the gigabit connection and Netflix binge watching era. However, the broadband industry has been whining like a petulant child ever since, largely because the change highlights how a lack of competition and the resulting failure to upgrade networks means a huge swath of the country doesn’t technically have broadband.

Outraged by the FCC’s sudden decision to have standards, incumbent broadband providers convinced six Senators to write in and scold the FCC last month, arguing that 25 Mbps was just a crazy metric, and that nobody needs that kind of bandwidth:

“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.”

As we noted then, the Senators apparently don’t have teenage kids (or have them and don’t pay attention to what they do), since 25 Mbps is a pretty reasonable standard for a household of hungry gamers, streamers, and social media addicts. And while the Senators use Netflix HD streaming as the holy grail for what constitutes “real” bandwidth usage, they apparently didn’t realize that as Netflix moves to 4K, each stream will eat 25 Mbps all by itself. In the age of Google Fiber and gigabit cable, 25 Mbps is a pretty fair per household metric; in fact the upstream standard probably isn’t high enough.

But this being Congress, the technical realities don’t matter nearly as much as the campaign contribution cash tied at the end of telecom talking points memo. Not to be outdone by the manufactured outrage of their friends in the Senate, Congressmen Fred Upton and Greg Walden have similarly decided to waste everybody’s time with a letter of their own (pdf), which accuses the FCC of “troubling actions” that “distort ? or outright ignore ? the FCC?s requirements to produce honest, data-driven reports to inform policymakers and the public.”

Why, the Congressmen argue, does the FCC feel the need to mess with such an obviously competitive market?:

“The Communications Act requires the FCC to assess and report on the state of broadband deployment, the level of video competition, and the level of effective competition in the nation’s mobile wireless market. Since 2011, it appears that the Commission has applied inconsistent definitions and analyses in making those determinations. Those reports have then been used to justify Commission actions to intervene in seemingly competitive markets. Despite the plain language of the Communications Act, the FCC’s actions seem to benefit specific classes of competitors and do not promote competition. This behavior concerns us.

Yes, that’s the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology complaining about having standards.

Of course the only reason the markets were “seemingly competitive” is that for fifteen years, the FCC has been basing policy on flimsy standards and cherry-picked industry data. Once the FCC raised the standards and started thinking a little more independently, phone companies that were happily selling snail-esque DSL at next-generation prices were suddenly outed for not trying very hard. Under the new standard, FCC data suggests 31 million Americans don’t technically have broadband, and two-thirds of homes lack access to speeds of 25 Mbps from more than one provider.

Again, the real outrage isn’t really that the FCC is some kind of rogue agency setting unrealistic standards just to make giant companies cry, the real outrage stems from the fact that the new standard makes it harder than ever to pretend that the United States is a competitive broadband market.

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Comments on “Congressmen Upton, Walden Latest To Insist Nobody Needs Faster Broadband”

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mcinsand (profile) says:

Re: "No one needs that much, no one will ever use it!"

TOG, you won the thread. I was going to chime in and say that, while they’re at it, they may as well tell the hardware manufacturers that we don’t need more than 1MB of RAM. However, the car analogy is one that our average senator has (half a) chance of understanding.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: "No one needs that much, no one will ever use it!"

That. Besides, they forget that nowadays you are not only watching netflix OR surfing the net, using social networks OR playing games. I’m often doing all three at the same time (if you consider skype and the likes as social network anyway). So 25 mbit may be a bit too low for a household with more than one person. And the 3mbit limit is simply laughable when you consider people upload their generated content to youtube and the likes very often. And often with incredibly high resolutions.

Even if you ignore all that, who is he to tell me what I need? What if I just want high speeds to load things blazing fast and don’t wait for a download?

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: "No one needs that much, no one will ever use it!"

Saying that no one needs a 25 Mbps connection is like saying that nobody needs more than 20 amp electrical service. After all, who runs more than a few light bulbs — and that only at night.

And why would you need water service capable of delivering more than a few gallons of drinking water per day. It’s way better than going to the well for water.

And natural gas? Don’t need it. Only dangerous terrorists would have that.

The government knows what’s best for you. The government is your friend. Trust the government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "No one needs that much, no one will ever use it!"

…a single car will never be able to take up more than one lane…

In my area “wide load(s)” – those vehicles where either the vehicle itself or the load thereon is too wide for a single lane – sometimes require a police escort. Are we going to that point here? (I hope not!)

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: "No one needs that much, no one will ever use it!"

I’d say a better analogy would be to ban all vehicles except motorbikes, and design the road system to only carry such. One person only needs one seat. Why do you need more than a single-occupant vehicle?

The old 4Mbps downstream speed is equivalent to a motorcycle^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hscooter. Sufficient to carry 1 person as long as you just need basic transport and no luggage space.

The new 25Mbps is like a good-sized sedan. Can carry 4 or so adults in reasonable comfort, or a family of 5.

100Mbps is a people-mover/van/pickup (i.e something that can carry like 7-8 people, or a small amount of cargo/tools for tradie etc). Or like sports cars/sportsbikes, ‘enthusiasts’ who travel faster and have fun using their transport, pushing the (affordable) limits.

Gigabit is like a semi or a bus. Or a supercar/bike for those that can afford it and like showing off.

TechDescartes (profile) says:

A Better Approach

The problem is that the FCC is trying to redefine a term, rather than to just define a new term. That gives the telcos a ready-made argument with which to respond. If the FCC wants to establish a poverty line for the internet, they should just do so rather than try to redefine “broadband,” a term that refers to the way in which frequencies are used, not the resulting connection speed. I propose:

Standards for
Connections in

ThatFatMan (profile) says:

The first step is to admit you have a problem. It would seem our congressmen haven’t made it to this point, while the FCC has. These congressmen (and women) seem more intent on acting like alcoholics begging their newly sober friends to go out and have a drink with them, rather than representing the interests of the people that elected them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: nobody...

“telemedicine. Really want doctor to drop connection during operation? ‘Sorry, still waiting for your x-ray to download'”

Telemedicine doesn’t belong on the open Internet. That’s a misuse of function that should get someone fired. There are business-class “Internet-like” global IP-networks specifically designed for that type of data and class of service. That’s where time- and mission-critical data like telemedicine, autonomous automobiles, emergency services and the like belong. Not the Internet.

ThatDevilTech (profile) says:

A thought...

I think there needs to be a grassroots campaign to get these idiots OUT of Congress. If they want to take money from the telcos and spout stupid rhetoric or just incompetent/uninformed for the masses, then they should go. If enough voices spoke up, maybe we’d get heard. Maybe….we don’t have the money that the telcos have but if the threat was loud enough, they might start listening.

Wishful thinking I guess. But, it’s a thought.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A thought...

Unfortunately, this grassroots thing is dead in the water. Walden is from my neighboring district. It’s extremely rural and conservative (he represents the Oregon district where the militia recently had their confrontation with the feds). He runs virtually unopposed every term. The only way someone could dislodge him would be to be even more conservative/anti-government. For whatever bizarre reason (read $$$), the FCC doing its job is described as a government power grab, and thus a nonstarter for his constituents. In this regard, he’s almost as bad as Marsha Blackburn, as the ranchers he represents are the ones who are never going to get broadband unless the government intervenes.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Pay no attention to the left hand which is picking your pocket, focus all your attention on the right as it might do something worse

For whatever bizarre reason (read $$$), the FCC doing its job is described as a government power grab, and thus a nonstarter for his constituents.

Oh come now, I’m sure it’s a pure coincidence that he’s against the FCC stepping in and attempting to curtail abuses by the major cable companies, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Comcast for example has been one of the top three donors to his election committee the past three elections(#1, #3, and #1 respectively counting back from the current one).

Get people worked up over the big bad government coming in and interfering with honest jobs and how if they let that happen their jobs might be next!, and you can get them to ignore the actions of private companies robbing them blind. They’re so focused on what might happen that they completely miss what is happening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Pay no attention to the left hand which is picking your pocket, focus all your attention on the right as it might do something worse

@That One Guy: You’re right, sadly. Playing on fear is extremely powerful. I also get why many of Walden’s constituents are pissed at the federal government. The concerns of a Washington bureaucrat are far removed from the day-to-day life of a Westerner; the rules that come down from the fed look (and sometimes are) arbitrary, nonsensical and unjust. That’s why the “fear play” is so egregious: a corporation, through a willing accomplice in the house, is exploiting this legitimate anger so people work against themselves. It’s a truly sick way to make money.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: A thought...

In Oregon the FBI murdered the well spoken book author Lavoy Finicum who had his hands in the air and never brandished a weapon.

The Feds created a Bureau of land MANAGEMENT and have slowly been managing the public lands away from the public. Someday you will lose the right to access a public land that you will notice. I hope it won’t be too late. To see how much land the Feds have taken look at this map:

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t necessarily agree that 25 mbps as a standard on the consumer-side is where it is relevant. Standards should be applied to the hardware side. In that way the infrastructure will be scaled for a far better quality of service in the lifetime of the investment (making current usage irrelevant!). As for consumer standards, regulating usage caps may be what is truely needed (hereunder zero-rating etc.). But that is likely a gross government overreach in the eyes of sir Upton and sir Walden.

Anonymous Coward says:

Give them a dose of their own medicine

Reduce the network connection for them and their staffers to 25mbs and don’t increase it again until they finally understand that it is far too low of a minimum for any family, much less for those of use with multiple gamers and entertainment streams going at any time of the day or night. Also cap them at 3GB and force them to pay for any overages while we are at it.

ThatDevilTech (profile) says:

Re: Give them a dose of their own medicine

25Mbps is too good for them. Give them 5 MAX. Give the staffers 3M/756K and see how quick they start fussing. I do agree though, IF they get 25, cap them at 3GB with $10/GB charge thereafter. But 25 is too good for them, since it’s apparently too good for most of America with our “world-class broadband”or whatever crap that guy from AT&T spewed yesterday.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Give them a dose of their own medicine

Or maybe give them the average for their district shared of course with their entire staff. A few lucky congressmen would have speeds that would be workable, barely. The majority though would be literally cursing the slow speed and limits placed on them. Whats good for the little people they represent should be good enough for them as well.

DB (profile) says:

The phrase that irks me most is “the majority of Americans who can purchase 25 Mbps choose not to”.

They are using bogus numbers based on coarse coverage maps. Many of those people don’t actually have that choice.

Where I previously lived I supposedly had three or four broadband options. Two wired and one/two wireless.

In reality the sole connectivity was 768K DSL. I could not receive either wireless signal reliably, and only Clearwire (now gone) would have been affordable if I had been able to.

Even that DSL was at risk. If something happened to that copper pair, I would be put on a waiting for another usable pair to become available.. behind a few of my neighbors that were waiting.

That One Other Not So Random Guy says:

Re: Re:

The phrase that irks me most is “the majority of Americans who can purchase 25 Mbps choose not to”.

I read that as while many may have access to the “higher” speeds they “choose not to” because it is overpriced. Sure they can offer 25 for $80 a month, but if I select a more affordable speed then i “choose” not to have it. It’s a bogus argument based on flawed logic and false “data.”

Ok what I really meant to say is it’s pure bullshit from the mouth of someone that gets a lot of money from the people it benefits most to not upgrade infrastructure.
A lie from a politician… it is Wednesday.

seedeevee (profile) says:

Other things Majorities of Americans choose not to buy

“according to the FCC’s own data, the majority of Americans who can purchase 25 Mbps choose not to.”

According to my own data, the majority of Americans who can purchase gold plated Senators choose not to. Furthermore, according to my data, the majority of Americans who could purchase a cable package for $300/month choose not to.

Adam (profile) says:

In most help programs...

…they will tell you that denial is the first symptom.

Welcome to denial.

Now I’m gonna vent.

In my town the 25Mbit (2Mbit up) provider actually sends about 1.5 Mbit during peak hours. They only recently removed a monthly cap of 30GB but they tout it as a “No Bandwidth Limit”. They don’t even know the terminology of the business they are in… yet their parent company is always touting how they need to be your IT support professionals for businesses. Why not entirely incorrect, bandwidth is not usually rated on a monthly term…which is what they really meand since it clearly denotes a 25Mbps speed… morons.

The cost of their 25Mbit? It’s $44.95… $5 cheaper than the other provider in town.. The other provider in town charges $49.99 for 155Mbit service (10Mbit up)… I pull, during peak hours, about 200Mbit (20Mbit up) with ease. No cap limits. Well above the speed I am promised obviously.

Why does one service totally suck and is overly expensive in comparison? Because they mostly do not overlap. I’ve had both services twice in different locations and in one house they actually overlapped. Only then was the junk-internet provider “able to offer” a discount on service when I called to make inquiries. That meant choosing between 25Mbit @ $30 per month of 80Mbit (at the time) for $44.. I clearly made the right choice to pay $44.

Of course the junk service offers higher speeds… Yes, you can get 50Mbit.. but only as a business class service with a $300 activation feed, variable installation fee (because why? who knows) and $150 per month.

Anonymous Coward says:

Their excuses are hollow and pathetic.

There are many, many reasons to expand broadband and the internet. Here is a few:
1.) There are plenty of services that can tax the line much more than Netflix already. To use Netflix and facebook as the only examples goes to show how little imagination and knowledge they really have.

2.) Innovation and creative uses for better internet speeds will only come when the infrastructure supports it. Take the medical industry; they will not start to do video consultations if 4/5 of the people don’t have the connection to support it.
Other things I can come up with pretty quickly are full access to your data at home (from a NAS or another home device) without having to wait 3 hours for it. Or how about thin clients? Being able to run anything, no matter how demanding with a docked phone or other device because you are connected either to your more powerful home computer or a service that could provide the computing power needed.
I have a 300/60 mbit connection and I have a private cloud and access to all my photos, videos, programs and installs I need for privately enjoying or for work. I do not use it all the time, of course, but I can easily use my upload speed fully.
We have a pretty good infrastructure here, but other countries are not so lucky and as such we need 5*servers simply because we have to have servers where the connection isn’t very good.

3.) A good data infrastructure brings growth and progress. I find it baffeling that such politicians work against this. His job shouuld be to preassure ISP’s, promote competetion and make sure his country gets as far ahead as possible.
His job is in short to keep pushing the boundaries.
A politician who promotes a standstill is not trying to make his country better and shouldn’t have the job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Their excuses are hollow and pathetic.

Like most other people on this topic, you keep looking at uses where one side is a business or professional organisation. What would be much more interesting is people giving interactive lectures, demonstrations of skills etc., from their homes, or co-operating on video productions, where near real time exchange of rough edited videos would be useful. Just look at what has happened in the free software world once Linus led the way by simply inviting all interested parties to jump in and help develop a system.
Give people the bandwidth, and they will find innovative uses for it, but many of these will threaten the power of those at the top of large organisation, because a University level education will not need someone to look after a large campus, or a studio to to fund and organize a large scale production.
Politicians are blind to such possibilities, because to them people need organizing to achieve anything, and they and their corporate friends are the ones to do the organizing, and incidentally claim most of the fame and/or profit from other people work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Their excuses are hollow and pathetic.

You are most certainly right. Education and what the people can do with the internet and the expanded possibilities faster connections bring, are very very important. The internet is as wonderful as it is because of it.
I believe I mentioned some of it in point nr. 2.

However, in order to make politicians fight for it, if there is ever a possibility of it, they want to see how it can bring a more tangible benifit to society.
People like him see twitter, facebook, netflix and celebrity news as the only thing on the internet because he probably doesn’t have any real experience with it like the generation today has.
He might be bought and paid for, but it also just might be that, like so many others, see the internet as a waste of time, instead of the greatest wealth of knowledge, in history, available to all.

ECA (profile) says:

No one needs, WHAT??

Something to think about here..
YAHOO video..In high res, uses 5mbps..Other sources are upgrading to High FPS and HD ranges..
In a house full of INTERNET devices, from your DVD player, your Computers, ROKU BOX, your CELLPHONES, your Frig, XBOX/PS4, 3D GAMING??…How many single player games REQUIRE connection to the net??? MOST of them, its called DRM..

With a shared house of more then 1 person..Double the speed AT THE LEAST..if you have children, DOUBLE again..
Do you want to do MORE then watch movies and anime, you better double it again..

Thats just for the internet, and NOT to bump around multiple connections with each other..
NOW lets talk about a HOME network system on TOP of this..
Are you scanning all your Pictures? Music? so anyone in the HOME can use/see it..Thats a server JOB..

ITS asif, they want to sell to EACh person as an individual..Want MORE? PAY MORE.. They already have Data caps..that you can Break in an instant..just watching movies and yourtube HD..

tzs says:

I see nothing in the Upton and Walden letter that supports your claim that they insist nobody needs faster broadband. All their letter does is ask the FCC to explain how the FCC arrived at its broadband definition.

It was the earlier letter from six other Congressmen that questioned the need for faster broadband (and even they did not say nobody needs it, just that many people do not).

Have you ever considered, just for the novelty of it, writing a story now and then that tries to be accurate instead of click bait?

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Broadband and Water.

In a backwards kind of way, the congressmen are right. The 25-m-bit standard is a variant of the idea that tap water should be good enough to drink. The primary use of tap water, of course, is flushing toilets, and the price of tap water is set at something reasonable for this use, on the order of a penny a gallon. What happened in Flint, Michigan, was that there were people who were concerned about the quality of the tap water, but were still drinking it because they did not feel they could afford bottled water at a dollar per gallon or more, and who got sick in consequence. As long as it could, the administration of Michigan (Republican) Governor Rick Snyder maintained that drinking bottled water was merely a “lifestyle choice.”

The 25-m-bit standard is approximately what can be delivered via Fiber-to-the-Neighborhood, re-using existing subscriber loops. I am of the opinion, based on costing-out studies, that FTTN needn’t cost more than an additional dollar or so per line per month over and above existing service. With efficient compression, 25-m-bits is probably good enough for almost anyone. That is the point. What terrifies the congressmen is that a dollar per line per month, when expended properly, is good enough for everyone, just as a penny’s worth of tap water will quench practically any thirst. You don’t get a distinction between people who can afford and people who cannot afford. The telephone companies, as presently organized, depend on such a distinction to make money. You cannot make full profit selling water unless people are actually dying of thirst, vide Frank Herbert’s Dune novels. So someone who wants to make money has to manufacture scarcity bu putting up arbitrary roadblocks.

About the only way you can really go in for conspicuous consumption with tap water is to have a large lawn in the desert, in some place like Arizona. And even then, you get upstaged by someone with a greater sense of style, who is willing to celebrate the fact of being in the desert, rather than pretending to be back in Indiana. He plants cacti and suchlike, and even keeps a pet iguana. To continue the analogy, the natural tendency of a computer is to become something like a spiral notebook, not something like a big car. You can’t do conspicuous consumption with a spiral notebook very well either. What counts is what you write in it, not the fact of ownership. The quality of the computer tends to extend itself to the telecommunications network.

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