Debate over what constitutes 'high-speed broadband' heats up as the FCC collects comments for its next broadband availability report

Coverage Type: 

The debate over what constitutes high-speed broadband has heated up as the Federal Communications Commission collects comments for its next report to Congress on the state of broadband availability. At stake is whether the FCC gets to regulate broadband to ensure it meets Congress’s goal of universal service. Arguments include debating whether 25 megabits per second (mbps) down/3 mbps up is not fast enough, whether the FCC’s deployment numbers are skewed because of bad data, and whether the FCC should be looking beyond availability to how many people actually access broadband, rather than simply where they could access it. A look at who is making which arguments related to speed, and why, as the FCC prepares to collect string on the 2020 report:

Fast Enough. Broadband providers represented by NCTA-The Internet & Television Association (which represents the larger incumbent cable operators) told the FCC it should definitely not increase the 25/3 speed threshold, and even suggested that that speed might be too high of a metric for availability. Though NCTA conceded there are still deployment gaps, it suggested the best way to fill them would be to target funds where there is no broadband at all -- the so-called "unserved" rather than "underserved" population. 

Need for Speed. In a joint filing, advocacy groups Public Knowledge, Next Century Cities and Common Cause told the FCC it should raise the high-speed broadband definition to 100 Mbps. They argue the agency should skate to where the puck is going to be. They concede that 100 Mbps is a “bold” approach, but say it is warranted. They interpret the mandate as requiring the FCC to “continuously improve” its speed standard, and point out it has remained the same for the past four years while innovation and consumer demand have not. “The [FCC] proposal to maintain the current benchmark broadband speed without even inquiring what future benchmarks may be necessary runs contrary to the Commission’s congressional mandate,” the groups have argued.

Need for Blazing Speed. INCOMPAS, with members that include Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter, are going the activist groups one better. Make that 10 times better. They say the FCC’s new high speed benchmark should be speeds of 1 Gigabit per second and that it should be “future-proofing” the definition of broadband. They argue that 1 Gig isn’t an aspirational target for the future, but “rather a sensible standard” that consumers are buying now.

Stakeholders Fight Over Need for Speed