The jungle book

FCC chairman proposes to upgrade broadband standard to 100 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up

In context: Currently, the minimum connection speeds required to be classified as broadband in the United States are 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream. The FCC Chairman recently proposed to increase this standard to 100/20 Mbps, while also mentioning plans to upgrade it to a whopping 1 Gbps/500 Mbps in the future. Unfortunately, it’s unclear if his proposal will go ahead.

FCC President Jessica Rosenworcel offers bringing the definition of broadband speeds to 100 Mbps for downloads and 20 Mbps up. She also suggested adopting a plan to update the standard to 1 Gbps/500 Mbps at some point in the future and that the commission’s analysis of broadband deployment take more account of factors including the affordability, adoption, availability and equitable access.

The FCC uses the definition of broadband to determine which areas in the United States lack adequate Internet service and to direct government funding to where it is most needed. It also forces Internet service providers to upgrade their networks and provide higher line speeds to consumers if they want to continue receiving federal subsidies.

The current standard of 25/3 Mbps was established in 2015, replacing the antiquated minimum of 4/1 Mbps. Since then, there have been several attempts to increase it, mainly due to the pandemic forcing people to spend more of their lives online. However, former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai decided early last year that the speeds were still sufficient to qualify as “advanced telecommunications capability.”

It’s unclear if and when the FCC will adopt the enhanced broadband definition. Rosenworcel’s proposal requires a vote, and the committee is still deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republicans.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration introduced a new government subsidy making high-speed internet connectivity free for many low-income households.