Broadband expansion and speeds are not keeping pace with the growing demand across the nation by consumers and businesses, says the Federal Communications Commission.
So the FCC this week took a step that could benefit millions of households and businesses, raising the minimum speeds for what can be considered broadband Internet. This will help people get the best broadband without getting stuck with slow connection.
The FCC’s action has big implications for Comcast, AT&T and other hard-line Internet service providers, as consumers are demanding faster speeds to watch streaming video, via Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and burgeoning services from other media companies, such as HBO, CBS and ESPN.
Internet broadband providers now need to provide download speeds of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 3 Mbps. The previous standard was 4 Mbps download and 1Mbps upload. The current national average for Internet speeds in the U.S. is in the 10-11 Mbps range.
“The 4 Mbps/1 Mbps standard set in 2010 is dated and inadequate for evaluating whether advanced broadband is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way, the FCC found,” reads the FCC’s statement.
Using the updated service benchmark, the 2015 report finds that 55 million Americans – 17 percent of the population – lack access to advanced broadband, the FCC said.
Moreover, a “significant digital divide remains between urban and rural America,” the agency said. More than half of all rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service. Rural America continues to be underserved at all speeds: 20 percent lack access even to service at 4 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 1 percent from 2011, and 31 percent lack access to 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, down only 4 percent from 2011.
By contrast, only 8 percent of urban Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a lobby group for cable companies and IPSs, opposes the new FCC threshold. The group contends that 25 Mbps significantly exaggerates the amount of bandwidth needed by a typical household broadband user.
The FCC is preparing to vote next month on new rules addressing what is commonly known as “net neutrality,” or how ISPs are to beregulated when it comes to the type of data that flows over the Internet.