The Impact of Redefining Broadband

The Impact of Redefining Broadband
Learn how the FCC's proposed change to the broadband definition to 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload could significantly impact internet access and policies in the U.S.

In recent developments, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been contemplating a significant adjustment to the definition of broadband. This reconsideration comes amid evolving digital needs and could reshape the landscape of internet access across the United States.

Key Highlights:

  • FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed updating the broadband speed benchmarks from the current standard of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload to 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload.
  • A long-term goal of reaching speeds of 1 Gbps download and 500 Mbps upload has also been set, although not as a current standard.
  • The proposal includes, for the first time, considerations of affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access in the assessment of broadband deployment.
  • Changes could lead to a more rigorous evaluation of broadband accessibility, potentially highlighting underserved areas, including rural and urban regions lacking adequate service.
  • The redefinition could influence FCC policies, including network neutrality and the distribution of federal funding for broadband expansion, making more areas eligible for aid due to updated unserved or underserved classifications.
  • Adoption of the new standards would align federal funding initiatives, such as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, with these updated benchmarks, promoting the construction of networks capable of meeting these speeds.

Understanding Broadband and Its Evolution

Broadband internet service has undergone several definitional changes over the years, reflecting technological advancements and changing consumer needs. Initially set at a minimum of 200 Kbps in both directions in 1996, the standard was increased to 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload in 2010 and further to 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload in 2015 under FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. These adjustments not only accommodate growing digital demands but also spotlight the digital divide, especially in rural areas where high-speed internet is less accessible.

Potential Outcomes and Considerations

The proposed redefinition of broadband aims to ensure that more Americans have access to high-quality internet, capable of supporting modern applications like streaming, telehealth, online education, and more. However, this change also raises questions about the readiness of infrastructure to meet these standards, the economic impact on service providers and consumers, and the balance between pushing for high-speed access and ensuring broad, equitable availability.

What Could Happen Next

The new broadband definition could lead to:

  • Increased Funding: Government programs often use the official broadband definition to determine eligibility for funding. The change could open doors for grants and subsidies aimed at expanding broadband access in underserved communities
  • Pressure on Providers: Internet providers could face more scrutiny to upgrade services in areas with slower speeds.
  • Debate: The new definition has sparked debate about whether the goals are realistic and how to achieve widespread, affordable, high-speed internet access across the US.

By incorporating factors such as affordability and equitable access into the criteria for broadband, the FCC recognizes the multifaceted nature of digital inclusion. Beyond the technical capacity to deliver high-speed internet, considerations around whether individuals can afford and effectively use the service are crucial for genuinely bridging the digital divide.

The proposed changes signal a shift towards recognizing high-speed internet as a fundamental service, essential for participation in contemporary society. As the FCC reviews the draft proposal, the outcome will likely influence the direction of U.S. broadband policy, investment, and regulation in the coming years, with a keen focus on expanding access and improving service quality across the nation.

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About the author

James

James Miller

Senior writer & Rumors Analyst, James is a postgraduate in biotechnology and has an immense interest in following technology developments. Quiet by nature, he is an avid Lacrosse player. He is responsible for handling the office staff writers and providing them with the latest updates happenings in the world of technology. You can contact him at james@pc-tablet.com.

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