high speed traffic picture

NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association and the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) have asked the FCC to use a broadband speed definition of one gigabit per second (Gbps) symmetrical for the commission’s next annual broadband deployment report. As a fallback, the associations say the speed should at least be set at 100 Mbps symmetrical.

Broadband was defined as 25/3 Mbps service in the latest FCC broadband deployment report and in reports for the last five years, the associations noted in a letter to the FCC. But that speed “does not reflect today’s reality,” the letter argues.

“We need to plan ahead, building networks that are both useful now and will remain useful in more than a decade when Americans will rely upon them to an even greater extent for so many aspects of everyday life,” the associations said. “To achieve a fully connected future and avoid perpetuating digital divides, we cannot afford to resign some Americans to second-class service – we need to aim higher and do better.”

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FCC Gigabit Broadband Speed Definition

The letter cites research from RVA that shows that residential demand for both upstream and downstream bandwidth has increased at a rate of 20% to 25% annually for over two decades. According to the FBA, the peak demand for a family of four is currently 85 Mbps downstream and 48 Mbps upstream and is expected to exceed 400 Mbps symmetric in roughly seven years.

Nationwide, as of 2018 FCC data, more than 85% of Americans had access to broadband delivering 250/50 Mbps and the median speed that households subscribed to had reached 100/10 Mbps.
The speeds in some rural areas are considerably lower, however, driving digital divide concerns.

The letter also notes that some stakeholders may argue that an increased benchmark will favor all-fiber networks, which would undermine the concept that broadband policy should be technologically neutral. The associations argue, though, that “policymakers should not sacrifice the technological superiority of all-fiber networks, especially when allocating precious government resources for those most in need of reliable, high-performance . . . broadband connections.”

The FCC Broadband Deployment Report

In the annual FCC broadband deployment report, the commission is required to make a determination whether broadband is being deployed in a timely manner – and that determination, as well as the broadband speed definition on which it is based, are a matter of contention each time the report is issued.

In years when the report has concluded that broadband isn’t being deployed in a timely fashion, some groups representing large telcos have complained, and in years when the report has supported the pace of broadband deployment, smaller rural telco groups have complained.

When the speed was raised to 25/3 Mbps, some argued that the level was set too high. And undoubtedly there will be those who argue that 1 Gbps – or even 100 Mbps – is too high.

But it would seem to be increasingly difficult to justify the current 25/3 Mbps speed level, considering the usage data cited in the letter, as well as other research that has been released in the last year or so.

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7 thoughts on “Industry Groups Ask FCC to Raise Broadband Speed Definition to a Gigabit

  1. The 250/50 85% number sounds incredibly suspect, as most cable company subscribers can’t get that, basically zero DSL customers can, and…that leaves FTTH or some higher speed fixed wireless solutions. There’s no way that those solutions over 85% of Americans right now.

    As for setting the definition of broadband at a gigabit symmetric, there’s a huge ulterior motive here, and spending only on projects that get all the way to a gig will be counterproductive for folks who can’t even get 25/3 now. It’s likewise not an accident that 100 Mbps symmetric was floated…again, there are two technologies that can consistently deliver 100 Mbps symmetric, and tons of folks whose internet is just fine can’t get either. So you end up lumping folks with a decent level of access in with folks who don’t, messing up funding prioritization for truly un/under-served areas.

    Gigabit symmetric can be *a* benchmark, to be sure. But 100/10 or 100/15 is still a drastic jump from 25/3, but is a low enough floor that multiple types of infrastructure can hit that goal, allowing for covering more folks with service that’s able to push 4K downstream easily, and multiple video streams upstream.

    Once we get basically everyone to that level, we can talk about raising the bar.

    1. 50/10 would be a reasonable bump. My family was doing OK with 50/3 until this whole zoom craze came about which requires better upload. Unless streaming multiple 4k channels that is all most families need. We have 4 computers and 2 tvs hooked up but all are 1080p so never really had contention for service.

      You are right too in that just getting 25/3 to the masses (which would still support a few 1080p streams) is more important than a fake out 1ghz number.

  2. Gigabit is the barrier to entry? Really? As both an entrepreneur and someone in tech, 50 symmetrical is more than enough for an overwhelming majority of households and even a good number of small businesses. Any attempt to change the definition is either a way to needlessly increase government funding or a back-handed way to exclude emerging wireless technologies from said funding.

  3. Priorities are way off here. Rural areas are far from even the current FCC definition. About 6m ago I finally got 10 down from subsidy to ATT. Why is FCC funding ATT for such a mediocre solution so far from their own definition of broadband? I am 5 miles from downtown. I am only 25 minutes from the second largest city in Ky. Ky tax payers have spent 1.5 billion for Ky to have its own state owned fiber. This was supposed to help those more rural to get decent service but noting is being done to incentivize it. They are hooking up big business and gov buildings. Without an incentive, nobody is going to spend the money to build out to reach new customers.

    1. Agreed. There hasn’t been enough accountability with the previous umpteenth rounds of last mile legislation. And in Kansas, we saw prior funds used to run fiber to farmhouses several miles out… At $30K or more per run for one family. I expect LEO efforts such as SpaceX to “fill in the gaps” far better and provide competition where the government previously created monopolies.

    2. Chad, you are correct. The problem is the system is dysfunctional, much like our government.
      All of these systems are for not. The system needs to be unfortunately 5G.
      The reason is that current Rural Broadcast is not ready for High Speed and its really not needed.
      The waste of the 1.6 billion is just that waste. All these companies did along with the government is build out there fiber infrastructure off the taxpayers money. Then let the kickback start, which all this was and still is a kickback scheme.
      The FCC holds all the cards even though it is a corrupt system of cronies who work the kickbacks for people on congress. IT goes to all the political parties. They do not oversight the FCC at all. Why, because they have no clue what they are doing!

      The 5G system will have over 187 billion dollars for deployment starting in 2021. That is the wireless system that is the best and will work for everyone for phone and Internet use.

      The problem is, the FCC and congress created the monopoly of companies who control this industry, including foreign companies like Sprint, T-Mobile who own our bandwidth now. Yes, the FCC is illegally selling out bandwidth to these companies and other foreign companies. Something that congress is encouraging for their foreign banking accounts.

  4. I wanted to make one last comment. People do not need 1 gig service. Even with gaming pushing this initiative. Only 18% of our population is into gaming.

    The average person only needs 5megs of service to run. These so-called companies pushing higher service levels is just B.S…
    These companies pushing rural broadband do not run wireless, that is what is needed to get more houses in line. Plus the future or running fiber over telephone poles might help. But even that has issues with reliability.
    The 5G service coming to rural areas will be the answer.

    In the state of Wisconsin. Our Governor has implemented a rural community taskforce for small communities in the state. Their objective is to support rural Wisconsin and what is needed for businesses to survive in these communities. The answer in 85% of the responses is lack of quality Internet.

    You can see your States on that website what grants and what the rural prosperity grants are used for. I would say for Wi-Fi in larger cities and for fiber, which was to hook-up a few houses and one or two companies. It is a waste of time and money!

    Wireless is the only cost effective manner to deploy rural Internet.

    Jeff S.

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