For years, high speed internet has been defined as a minimum download speed of 25Mbps and upload of 3Mbps, according to the FCC. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) instead defines “high speed” as just 10Mbps down and 1Mbps up. Now, a bipartisan group of senators is calling on the FCC to update its definition of high-speed broadband, and argues for a base of 100Mbps up and down – figures which the group claims reflect the needs of modern Internet users.
Without a doubt, 2020 was the year when our home broadband was put to the test, and it’s likely that many of us realized our “high speed” connection wasn’t all that. Base speeds of 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up as defined by the FCC are barely enough to maintain one Zoom call – let alone multiple ones – which is why a bipartisan group of senators is calling for an updated definition.
Updating the definition would mean the FCC would be unable to identify an area as being served by high speed access unless the new symmetrical speed of 100Mbps was offered.
In an open letter, the group writes, “Broadband has helped millions of students maintain their education and provided patients access to vital care through telemedicine services. It has also given family and friends a way to connect in this difficult time while supporting social distancing. All of these vital economic, social, and healthcare-related functions are only possible with access to adequate broadband, the demands for which only continue to increase.”
It’s hoped this would drive forward improved Internet access for Americans across the country. “There is no reason federal funding to rural areas should not support the type of speeds used by households in typical well-served urban and suburban areas,” the letter adds.
Equity of Internet access is a longstanding issue, with many families living in underserved areas struggling with speeds as low as 768kbps. One AT&T customer recently went so far as to shame AT&T with a $10,000 newspaper ad complaining about his 3Mbps DSL (TL;DR: it worked).