The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Broadband as a Moving Target

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On January 29, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) redefined what constitutes minimum standards for broadband access, raising the bar from the original standard of 4 Megabytes per second (Mbps) for download speeds, and 1 Mbps for upload speeds, to 25 Mbps download speeds and 3 Mbps upload speeds. Under the new standard, existing Digital Subscriber Lines (DSL) that access the Internet over telephone lines may no longer qualify as broadband. At the time the FCC made this move, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai noted, “This decision should surprise American consumers. 71 percent of consumers who can purchase fixed 25 Mbps service – over 70 million households – choose not to. And before today, 58 million Americans thought they had subscribed to mobile broadband. But now the FCC says they’re getting something else.” On December 30, 2015, the FCC released its 2015 Measuring Broadband Report Fixed Broadband Report containing good news for American consumers, even with the new higher standards. While keeping the minimum speeds for broadband the same as last year, the report cites the success ISPs are having in deploying speeds at faster than advertised rates in spite of the FCC’s more stringent requirements. However, based on this new report, the FCC Chairman has already decried the state of broadband deployment in the U.S., citing the 34 million Americans who do not have broadband access as defined by these new higher standards. What is more disconcerting is while the Broadband Progress Report does not set a minimum speed level for mobile broadband, the FCC Chairman indicated that he would not discount setting those standards in the future. This sets the stage for an interesting discussion at the January FCC meeting. The FCC’s 2016 Broadband Progress Report will be among the items being considered during its next monthly meeting on January 28, 2016. It is important that the benchmarks for broadband speeds not be placed on a continually upward spiraling scale of speeds that will make broadband accessibility as defined by the FCC unattainable.

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