Broadband Redefined by the FCC

In the late 90’s, a T1 connection at 1.54 Mbps was the top-end speed for the enterprise. Today in 2015, consumer broadband delivers an order of magnitude more bandwidth. But how much is enough to actually qualify as “broadband”?

The U.S Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is wading into the broadband speed debate, with a new definition for what constitutes broadband in America. Since 2010, the FCC has defined broadband as 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps of upload bandwidth. That speed definition is no longer adequate, in the FCC’s view.

The FCC is now redefining broadband as 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. That’s more than a 6x speed boost for the broadband download definition, in only five years.

For urban areas in the U.S, the new broadband definition doesn’t represent a large challenge. The FCC reported that 92 percent of urban Americans have access to 25Mbps/3Mbps broadband services in their communities.

The challenges is in rural areas, where the FCC found that 55 million people (or 17 percent of all Americans) do not have access to broadband in the 25Mbps/3Mbps bandwidth range.

“Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to report annually on whether broadband ‘is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion,’” and to take ‘immediate action’ if it is not,” the FCC stated.

The FCC noted that progress has been made in broadband deployment across the U.S via the FCC’s Universal Service programs, but the gains are not coming fast enough to all segments of the population. The FCC has concluded that there needs to be additional effort by both the private and public sectors in the U.S to improve broadband speed availability in the 25 Mbps/3 Mbps range.

Broadband deployment speeds around the world are increasingly trending toward speeds that are higher than the FCC’s 2010 broadband definition of 4 Mbps/1 Mbps. The recent Akamai fourth quarter State of the Internet (SOTI) report found that 60 percent of all connections globally are 4 Mbps or greater. That said, the overall global average connection during the fourth quarter was only 4.5 Mbps.

Looking inside the U.S, Akamai’s fourth quarter report found that Delaware was the fastest state in the US, with an average connection speed of 17.4 Mbps.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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