Carrier Evolution

There is little question that the U.S. broadband situation is “rapidly evolving,” as the Federal Communications Commission notes. Also, the 2010 National Broadband Plan recommended that the Commission “review and reset” its benchmarks every few years. So the FCC now is preparing to consider a wide range of standards and definitions for broadband that likely will change the definitions, perhaps adding quality metrics for the first time, as well as standards for mobile and satellite broadband.

In 2010, the Commission raised the minimum speed threshold for broadband to a 4 Mbps downstream, 1 Mbps upstream service.

But the FCC now wants to consider raising the speeds used to define the minimum levels for “broadband,” adding latency and usage cap benchmarks, at least for fixed terrestrial broadband service.

The Commission also wants input on whether to add specific benchmarks for satellite and mobile broadband. The FCC also might assess bandwidth based on the number of users in a household, the number of devices or apps expected to be used in homes.

Where streaming high definition TV, video conferencing, or online gaming, 6 to 15 Mbps could be required as a minimum, the Commission seems to suggest.

The 2010 National Broadband Plan recommended that the Commission set a goal of 100 million U.S. homes having affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 Mbps and actual upload speeds of at least 50 Mbps by 2020. The FCC wants imput on whether the Commission should identify multiple speed tiers to assess the country’s progress.

The FCC might also consider whether “affordability” goals should be added, as well, including such criteria as service prices.

In the technical realm, the Commission is looking at whether latency should be considered as an additional threshold for broadband, possibly adopting a 100-millisecond latency threshold for fixed services.

If mobile broadband data is collected, the FCC also will have to decide what speed benchmarks make sense, as well as setting latency requirements for mobile broadband.

The FCC even wants to include Wi-Fi hotspots in its analysis, including private in-home or in-building networks as well as public hotspots, in assessing mobile broadband deployment and availability.