Monday, October 02, 2017

With broadband definition change, rural areas could look like they get fast internet service

"Is the government doing a good enough job getting Internet access to the people? Until recently, the government's own assessment was no — things could be better for many Americans fed up with slow service, high prices or a lack of competition. But a looming change in the way officials define Internet service may soon prompt the Federal Communications Commission to change its mind and say that, in fact, it looks like consumers are doing just fine, thank you very much," Brian Fung reports for The Washington Post.

Until 2015, broadband was defined as service with a download speed of 4 megabytes per second. That was fine in the pre-Netflix era, but not now. "That year, the agency revised its minimum definition of broadband to be any service that offered at least 25 Mbps downloads and 3 Mbps uploads," Fung reports. "By this definition, the FCC said, 55 million Americans lacked high-speed Internet. Almost overnight, the FCC essentially created a big mission for itself to solve, using all of the policy tools and money at its disposal."

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai says the 2015 study’s revised definition deliberately created a problem for the agency to solve through regulation. So for this year’s study (which the agency must do by mandate) Pai is floating the idea of adjusting the standards down to 10 mbps download and 1 mbps upload speed. He believes setting higher standards wouldn’t make internet providers upgrade their networks more quickly. In 2015, Pai said that internet service providers had indicated that “their caution stems primarily from regulatory uncertainty and in particular their concerns about whether and how Internet Protocol-based (IP) networks are going to be regulated in the future,” Fung reports.

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