Tech Giants Urge FCC To Raise Pathetic U.S. Definition Of ‘Broadband’ To 1 Gigabit

from the it-ain't-broadband-if-it-ain't-broad dept

INCOMPAS, the DC trade policy and lobbying group primarily steered by tech giants, is urging the FCC to finally boost the U.S.’ pathetic definition of broadband. The FCC’s current definition of broadband, 25 Mbps down, 3 Mbps up, is looking a bit pathetic, particularly on the upstream side. And the lower standard helps the uncompetitive telecom sector obscure its failure to broadly deliver next-gen speeds.

“Since 2017, we have urged the FCC to increase internet speed benchmarks to 1 Gigabit – it’s a faster standard that consumers want and the market can easily deliver,” INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering said. “Other nations including China and Europe have gigabit goals in place, and it’s time for the FCC to deliver faster speeds or risk slowing down our economy.” 

Originally defined as anything over 200 kbps in either direction, the definition was updated in 2010 to a pathetic 4 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up. It was updated again in 2015 by the FCC to a better, but still arguably pathetic 25 Mbps downstream, 3 Mbps upstream.

As we noted then, the broadband industry whined incessantly about having any higher standards, as it would only further highlight industry failure, the harm of monopolization, and a lack of competition. In fact, telecom giants have consistently lobbied against any new effort to raise the standard.

Recently, FCC boss Jessica Rosenworcel announced she supports a new definition of 100 Mbps downstream, 25 Mbps upstream. The problem: because the telecom lobby successfully blocked the confirmation vote of Gigi Sohn to the FCC (something Rosenworcel hasn’t said much about), the agency lacks the voting majority needed to implement this or any other reform opposed by telecom giants.

Both INCOMPAS and Rosenworcel know this.

“We have the ability and responsibility as Americans to go big and bold on broadband,” the letter said. “We are looking to the Commission’s leadership to establish a new broadband speed goal that enables all Americans to access high-speed internet no matter where they live or work. It is time to set that goal to 1 Gigabit.”

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Comments on “Tech Giants Urge FCC To Raise Pathetic U.S. Definition Of ‘Broadband’ To 1 Gigabit”

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MathFox says:

Meaningless Internet Speeds?

What connection speed does a household need? I have symmetric 50Mbit/s fiber and I’m happy with the speed. I can imagine a household of 4 wanting 100Mbit for smooth streaming of multiple hi-res videos. Why would a household need much more than that (now)?
OTOH, having Gigabit available (at an affordable price) is beneficial to businesses… so aiming at Gbit availability in the longer term makes a good goal. I do not care that much where the FCC draws a line, as long as decent actual speeds are achievable for a decent price where the broadband maps claim it is.

Anonymous Coward says:


How about enough bandwidth for a Hi_res real-time meet up with a dozen people, and with bandwidth left over for the rest of the household. Like a band recording a concert in virtual space, with the video for making a video release. The interaction changes the dynamic of the performance from one made in separate parts.

MathFox says:

Re: Re:

I make a “back of the envelope” calculation: It’s about 12 Mbit/s for a 4K video stream, which means you could fit 8 band members in a 100 Mbit/s (symmetric) link. If you’re in a band of 4 or 5 it would easily fit, with some room to spare for the rest of the family. Go for a bigger connection if you play in a big band (or reduce the video quality to 1080p).

IMO families that would have a good use for >100Mbit/s are rare, unless they have a business use for their Internet connection.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

IMO families that would have a good use for >100Mbit/s are rare, unless they have a business use for their Internet connection.

As Techdirt has pointed out in the past, that’s largely because the bandwidth isn’t widely availible for capitalists to create use cases that need more. As my father once said – “I can’t imagine why anyone would need more than 64K of RAM.” 10 years ago it was 25Mbit/s that was excessive for a family.

If you built it, they will come. But more, I’d like the network to have so much capacity I always get that advertised speed, rather than a network capable of providing that speed, but only if everyone isn’t working from home.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I make a “back of the envelope” calculation: It’s about 12 Mbit/s for a 4K video stream

FWIW, I’ve seen Blu-ray rips upwards of 80 GB. For example: Akira.1988.UHD.BluRay.2160p.TrueHD.5.1.HEVC.REMUX-FraMeSToR.mkv
82 GB, 124 minutes, implying an average rate around 96 Mbit/s (more than a nominally 100 Mbit/s connection can handle)

So, for “full-quality” video streaming, with multiple users, gigabit can already be somewhat justified. And who knows what the future will bring? VR movies? 16K? Lossless? “Multi-angle” for something other than porn? Peer-to-peer everything? Do we really want Americans to be rationing, from the beginning, what other countries (will) have in abundance?

Yeah, something like Netflix will dynamically reduce bandwidth/resolution when it detects congestion, and in all likelyhood will always compress more aggressively than Blu-ray—just to save their own money. But let’s be imaginative when planning infrastructure. For London’s sewerage system, Joseph Bazalgette is said to have based the pipe diameter on the highest foreseeable growth, and then doubled it—because these would last for generations, and who can predict that far in advance? And, indeed, nobody had realistically predicted the tower block, which would have immediately overwhelmed a “right-sized” system.

Anonymous Coward says:


What connection speed does a household need?

It’s hard to say; but, to quote William Smith Clark: “boys, be ambitious!”

Modern technology puts a post-bandwidth-scarcity environment within our reach. To set our goal at only what people can be shown to need would be, frankly, boring, and would cede the “bleeding edge” of technology to foreign companies (more so). Non-US ISPs such as init7 are installing 10 Gbit/s and even 25 Gbit/s fiber to private residences, because why the hell not? The hardware exists, the fiber can handle it, and I guess they like a challenge.

And, personally, I’m curious to see what software people might come up with given unlimited 1-100 Gbit/s internet everywhere. What happens when the network is faster than local storage? The best innovation doesn’t come from “making do”, even if it is kind of cool to watch the DOCSIS and especially DSL people come up with miracle after miracle to avoid running new wires. The USA had the ambition to run electricity and telephone wiring into even the most rural areas before many other countries, but is falling embarrassingly behind when it comes to internet.

Mick says:


What connection speed does a household need?

Today? 100Mbps will do it. But since the law only gets updated every 5-15 years and 4K video on multiple screens is a thing, 1Gbps is perfectly sensible.

It’s a goal number for where we want to be, not a snapshot of where we are today. Treating like a snapshot is how we wound up with 5 years of 4Mbps long after most of us could easily go WAY beyond that just with decent quality YouTube videos on multiple screens.

Settling for what works for YOU (not all of us) in the present day is obviously dumb and short-sighted. It’s a child’s solution to a serious issue.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


“What connection speed does a household need?”

Why do cars go faster than 65?
Why would anyone need to go faster than the speed limit?

This isn’t demanding they run gigabit to every household, this just just saying if its not 1gb its not broadband, which I am sure might cut off some free government money to the incumbents as they no longer meet the legal definition to get the benefits.

We have already given them billions to build out and what we got in return was lies, broken promises, and more fees to give shareholders an extra nickel.

Imagine what would happen if the government stopped propping these corporations up, if they actually had to compete in an open market… 1gb would probably be the lowest tier offered as they suddenly notice that in the last few decades there have been developments that makes it all faster and cheaper for consumers.

Joel Coehoorn says:


As I’ve long said, we don’t really need to go that high. Thanks to the pandemic-fueled shift to work-from-home the current definition is too low, but 40/15 is still plenty for pretty much any normal household.

What’s really going on here is changing the definition will allow them to spend the $65 BILLION in the last infrastructure bill on areas that are already well-served, instead of bringing broadband to new areas.

kallethen says:


but 40/15 is still plenty for pretty much any normal household.

I remember one time back when I was growing up, our town decided to expand it’s elementary school as they had so many kids they were using portable classrooms for the overflow. So they added enough classrooms to the building for the overflow… and found out they still needed the portables cuz the were even more kids.

Moral of the story: Don’t plan out for what we need now, but plan out what we will need in the future.

Anonymous Coward says:


40/15 is still plenty for pretty much any normal household.

As an adolescent on dialup, I dreamed of having a T1 line. 1.5 Mbit/s, symmetric, and all mine! But it was hundreds of dollars a month requiring then-esoteric equipment and operating systems. Not remotely practical.

It was literally not till 5 years ago that I got those speeds. Sure, downstream speeds had surpassed 1.5 long ago, but upstream had long stagnated at 0.8. Currently stagnating at 10 Mbit/s, and probably won’t be higher until our telecommunications regulator unfucks the wholesale markets (which they don’t seem to care about). It’s a mistake to regulate based on what the average person wants today. Most were probably doing just fine without electricity or phone when the regulated rollouts for those started.

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Isocrates (profile) says:

I thought things were bad in Canada

I’ve had 1000 down 100 up for the last year and I gotta tell you, it completely changes how you interact with the internet. Suddenly you start thinking of it not as an extra thing that you wait for but as an automatic thing, like water in the tap or power in a socket.

Last week our ISP had some issues and I was down to 30 down 10 up and hoo boy, did I notice that.

That’s just to say, if you think that gigabit internet isn’t needed, just wait till you try it. It’s been especially noticeable on days that I’m working from home.

FYI for those in the US saying that it’s too expensive, in Canada most gigabit internet is now the equivalent of $77 USD. And that’s with a three to five (depending on what province you’re in) company monopoly on it.

Anonymous Coward says:


And that’s with a three to five (depending on what province you’re in) company monopoly on it.

Three? Two in many areas (just Rogers and Bell in much of Ontario), and I’m sure some are one or zero. The CRTC lets the incumbents charge wholesalers upwards of $100/month for fiber access, when they’re selling it to retail customers (plus unlimited internet) for much less. It’s regulatory capture and is killing off the third-party market.

I’m talking about wired internet only, of course, because our wireless market is even more dysfunctional. Everything’s capped, preventing any use as a “real” internet connection.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

yet we still have faster speeds cheaper than the US.

Perhaps on wired connections, especially if you play the game of threatening to cancel every year to get a “temporary” discount—or just use a third-party wholesaler like TekSavvy (though, as implied above, non-cable options are limited).

For cellphones, I’ve heard it’s cheaper to roam in Canada with an American plan than to use a Canadian one.

Ge0rge Tirebyter says:

Lack of imagination

I had a BitNet account, used paper tape to code FORTRAN on a Honeywell Cyber System, Hollerith cards on an IBM HASP 360 mainframe and the engineering prototype (hand built) Magnetic Card Selectric Typewriter as a word processor. The trend across the decades has been to use the available bandwidth until there is no more to be had. All the arguments above about how adequate someone’s Fiber/Cable/5G links are now seem congruent with the arguments that FidoNet/BBS’/64K etc were adequate. In the context of their introduction they were adequate, over time they were not. The bandwidth hogs and time sensitive applications keep scaling up: higher resolution video, online gaming, and stock/commodity market competition are all examples. If the past is any guide to the future, rollouts are slow, infrastructure change is expensive, and aiming low will come back to bite you.

Anonymous Coward says:


Given the fact that my tablet has a 64GB SD card in it, 1GB speed for downloading seems tiny.

Note that we’re talking about 1 Gb/s, which is only around 0.125 GB/s. (Anyway, it’s doubtful any 64 GB SD card could write at gigabit speed.)

There are also standards for consumer passive-optical networks at 10 Gb/s, 25 Gb/s, even 50 Gb/s. Hell, even cable modems can do 10 Gb/s downloads now (6 Gb/s upstream). I doubt gigabit consumer services are considered “tiny” anywhere in the world, but they’re not particularly ambitious as a goal.

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