The FCC’s 25Mbps broadband standard seemed fast in 2015, but that was seven years ago — and the agency’s current leadership believes it’s time to raise that baseline. Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed raising the minimum definition of broadband to 100Mbps for downloads and 20Mbps for uploads. The previous 25/3 benchmark is both outdated and hides just how many low-income and rural internet users are being “left behind and left offline,” Rosenworcel said.
The chair said multiple pieces of evidence supported the hike, including requirements for new network construction stemming from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The FCC had already proposed upgrades to rural speeds through a special program, but this would affect the definition of broadband regardless of where users live in the country.
Rosenworcel also wanted the minimum speed to evolve over time. She proposed setting a much higher standard of 1Gbps down and 500Mbps up for some point in the future. The leader further suggested more criteria for determining the “reasonable and timely” rollout of broadband, including adoption rates, affordability, availability and equitable access.
It’s unclear if the standards change will move forward. Ars Technicanotes any proposed upgrade would require a vote, and the current commission is deadlocked with two Democrats and two Republics. As the Senate has done little to advance commissioner nominee Gigi Sohn, there’s no guarantee Rosenworcel (a Democrat) will get her way. Telecoms might not be thrilled, either. Comcast only last year raised the speed of its $10 Essentials tier to 50Mbps downstream — it and other carriers might have to invest in better networks to reach the 100Mbps minimum in some areas, let alone a possible 1Gbps threshold.