from the please-lower-your-standards dept
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.