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FCC Upgrades What it Means to be “Broadband” Internet—What it Means for Customers

By Lyn Atwood / February 2, 2015 / Tags:

broadband Internet
The FCC has revised the definition of broadband Internet to be five-times faster.

 

  • The FCC has redefined broadband Internet as at least 25Mbps, up from 4Mbps
  • Higher speeds should be available to more U.S. households and support better Internet video streaming, Internet TV, and other web uses

In a surprising move last week the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) redefined the definition of broadband Internet. Now, Internet speeds will have to be at least 25Mbps—up from only 4Mbps—in order to be classified as broadband.The move is expected to have political implications as well as impact customers of Internet service providers.

The FCC’s decision was opposed by several large companies that provide broadband Internet, including Comcast, AT&T and Verizon. Republicans serving as FCC commissioners also objected to the move, voting against the decision, which came out along party lines with a 3-2 vote.

Democrats defended their vote in favor of the broadband upgrade, highlighting America’s growing need for faster Internet speeds as households add more connected devices. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler also pointed out that, although broadband providers balked at the new definition, companies frequently advise customers to purchase Internet speeds of 25Mbps or more for regular household use.

The impact for Internet customers

That faster broadband Internet is in high demand among U.S. consumers is a fact nobody is debating. Especially given the rapid development of Internet-based media technologies—from online video streaming, to watching TV online, to getting Internet TV, the need for faster speeds growing at lighting pace.

The new definition of broadband should mean more American households will have access to higher Internet speeds. Higher speeds will, however, come at a higher cost. The decision may also boost the burgeoning Internet TV industry—something traditional cable companies are naturally aligned against but which the FCC has found favor with. (In fact, the first true Internet TV service, Sling TV, is on the verge of launching.) The FCC’s vote also has implications for broadband policy, and could even impact the future net neutrality vote.

While broadband providers are against the recent move, companies are in favor of the FCC removing regulations that depress private investment, and argue such a move should take precedence over creating new definitions of broadband. “The commission should conclude that broadband is being deployed throughout the United States in a reasonable and timely fashion,” wrote a lawyer for Verizon last fall. “Broadband providers have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in deploying next-generation broadband networks.”

 

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