back to article FCC sexes up, er, sextuples 'broadband' speed to 25Mbps in US

US internet tweaker FCC this morning redefined the meaning of "broadband" internet to mean at least 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up – from the previous 4Mbps/1Mbps definition. Describing the old measure as "dated and inadequate," three of the watchdog's five commissioners voted in favor the change – which will enable the FCC to put …

  1. Eddy Ito
    Meh

    Big deal, it's just a number. To most people there is broadband and dial-up, that's it, no other distinction. Changing the definition won't change how the word is used and if you need proof ask all the folks who could care less.

    1. Jango

      .. but it makes a difference

      Even if people don't care, ISPs will no longer be able to claim they provide broadband technically. So if customers ask for broadband, they will have to upgrade the bandwidth.

      1. Justin Pasher

        Re: .. but it makes a difference

        So what's to stopping them from just using the "high speed internet access" instead? Unless that term is explicitly defined somewhere, I don't see it having the effect that they hope it will have.

        1. Purple-Stater

          Re: .. but it makes a difference

          "So what's to stopping them from just using the "high speed internet access" instead?"

          The FCC has already declared that broadband is simply high-speed internet that is always on, and that can be accomplished through different technologies. Cable, DSL, fibre, 4G... whatever. Broadband is a pretty broad blanket, definition-wise. :-)

      2. Gannon (J.) Dick

        Re: .. but it makes a difference

        In theory, I guess.

        If history is any guide, some trademark troll has already snagged

        "highband",

        "wideband",

        "longband",

        "Sgt.Pepper'sLonelyHeart'sClubBandAidsForKids", etc.

        Which of course will serve as an antidote to any FCC fines.

        Or whines, for the tragically too few occasions when the FCC has to explain why rock-stars running a harem is really a good idea, but just needs time.

        1. Eddy Ito

          Re: .. but it makes a difference

          Well a quick look at Verizon shows they use "High Speed Internet" for DSL and "FIOS Internet" for fiber. TWC calls their packages "Standard", "Ultimate" and "Extreme". Comcast uses the "Xfinity" brand and offers service as "Performance Starter", "Performance", "Performance w/ Blast" and "Extreme 150". One word I didn't see on any of their sites was "Broadband" except for once where Comcast quoted a study "FCC, Measuring Broadband America". So it's pretty much all but banished already.

          Somehow I think the average consumer when they ask for broadband internet and are offered "Super Ultimate Extreme High Speed internet" at 100 Mbps or "High Performance internet" at 10 Mbps isn't going to know or care about the difference beyond the price.

      3. thomas k.

        I'd like some more, please

        Well, people can ask. Doesn't mean they'll get it.

      4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: .. but it makes a difference

        ISPs will no longer be able to claim they provide broadband technically

        The FT pointed out an interesting and (possibly unintended?) consequence of this. By effectively reclassing lots of small suppliers as no longer providing broadband, the FCC has effectively put Comcast into an even more dominant position, which could threaten its bid for Time-Warner under anti-monopoly rules.

      5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: .. but it makes a difference

        So if customers ask for broadband, they will have to upgrade the bandwidth.

        No, they'll just tell the customers that they can have "high speed Internet access". And if the customers demand "broadband", branded as such, they'll be told to look elsewhere. Since business-class connections are typically far more expensive, the cable and phone companies selling consumer-class service really don't have to worry about many defections.

        I don't believe anyone's ever advertised "broadband" service in the city where I currently live (and have for over a decade). It's simply not available. DSL's advertised speed maxes out at something like 12 Mbps. I don't remember offhand what the cable company advertises for their service, but it's well below 25 Mbps. Those are your options; you take one or you take nothing.

        There is no appreciable pressure on any provider here to increase capacity,1 and this FCC decision does not change that a whit. They weren't calling it "broadband" before, and they won't call it that now.

        1Using "bandwidth" to mean maximum transfer speed is a barbarism. Ditto "broadband".

    2. Daniel B.
      Boffin

      It doesn't matter what word they use...

      You're missing the point about redefining broadband. The real meat is in this:

      The FCC is obliged to produce an annual report on broadband deployment and is authorized to take "immediate action" if it feels that is not happening "in a reasonable and timely fashion."

      This means that even if Verizon, Comcast/TWC or MegaShaft Internet Services decides to call their inferior options "narrowband" or whatever, if they still don't meet the FCC broadband standards, the FCC can actually intervene and speed up things. By doing things like breaking municipal monopoly contracts or challenging those iffy laws banning municipal broadband efforts.

      Eventually, either the big telcos or cable companies crank up their broadband speeds, or they let someone else do it.

      It's awesome. The FCC seems to have grown a pair.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: It doesn't matter what word they use...

        The FCC is obliged to produce an annual report on broadband deployment and is authorized to take "immediate action" if it feels that is not happening "in a reasonable and timely fashion."

        Oh, yes. There's no wiggle room in that.

        The FCC seems to have grown a pair.

        Of unicorns, perhaps.

        I'll be extremely surprised if advertised or actual connection speeds change significantly in my area in the next five years. And I'm not in the middle of nowhere - I'm in a small city that's part of the urban area around the state capital.

        Of course, I don't care either, since the speeds I do get are more than adequate for actual work (SSH, Subversion, etc over VPN connection to the office, and online research and the like) and a modicum of entertainment. And frankly I wouldn't much miss the latter.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Eddy, do you mean that people actually care so much that they could be less caring or do you mean that people couldn't care less? There is a vast difference between those two you know.

      1. Eddy Ito

        @Ivan 4, it was used intending to have a double meaning. First, I was not one who could care less and therefore I couldn't care less. That's true especially since in my current neighborhood the best I can get is slower than the current definition of broadband anyway (3M down, 200k up in the real world regardless of which package you pay for). Second, the fact that lots of people still say "could care less" regardless of how often it seems to be corrected says that the use of the term "broadband" won't change either.

        @Daniel B, sure the "immediate action" thing seems like things will change quickly but don't forget that we're dealing with corporate monoliths who are quite happy to sue the FCC to ensure the status quo. The instant the FCC tries to take "immediate action" it will find itself in a mire of lawsuits which will be drawn out at least until the next President and even then it's likely to take nothing less than the Supremes deciding whether the FCC has the authority to break those municipal contracts and by then it will be time to move the "broadband" bar again. The entrenched companies already know they need to buy a bigger politician it's just a matter of who they can partner with November 2016.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'd feel better if they just forced ISP's to be very clear about what their services provide without having to read thru an average of 2-3 Eula's. I could care less what moniker the marketing types come up with. If there's a bandwidth cap it should be clearly stated (as well as additional fees, throttling, or disconnection). I don't want the Gov't to dictate what an ISP has to provide. I'd rather them force transparency, promote consumer education on the subject, and let consumers vote with their wallets. Of course there has to be competition in the first place...

    1. Brad Ackerman
      Alert

      Better cap disclosure would definitely be nice. In duration, at least as prominent as the advertised download speed. A 300 GB/mo cap on service advertised at 50 Mb/s is 13 hours 20 minutes of use per month, for example.

  3. Vector
    Meh

    "...people simply didn't need 25Mbps..."

    Yeah, and 640K of memory is more than anyone will ever need...

    1. ITS Retired

      Re: "...people simply didn't need 25Mbps..."

      And 20 meg hard drives are more than enough storage.

      ! gig Google fiber here. It does make a difference, it really does.

  4. Number6

    Cost

    At least they included the word "affordable" in the target definition.

  5. Tom from the States

    What a colossal waste of time.

    What an absolutely stupid waste of time. This is only being done for some kind of hidden agenda by the current administration. We used to have 8Mpbs on AT&T U-Verse and we were able to stream two Netflix streams simultaneously. If you wanted to bump it up the definition of "broadband", you could make it 8Mpbs or 10 Mbps, but to bump it to 25 Mbps is asinine.

    One wonders if it's a coincidence this is being done *before* the decision has been made on the proposed TWC-Comcast merger.

    1. Muckminded

      Re: What a colossal waste of time.

      Current FCC man is THE cable guy: http://www.fcc.gov/leadership/tom-wheeler

      The US ranks 11th in the world for internet download speed. Maybe he's just trying to keep us from becoming a tech backwater?

      One wonders if you have internet access at all.

  6. joed

    I'l have to embrace my new to me dial-up service

    Though Comcast's Economy Internet has never deserved broadband moniker.

  7. Handle This

    re: Bootnote

    I generally agree with the above comments regarding the value of the change in name only, lack of transparency being the real issue, etc.

    What brought me to comment is the bootnote. What is/was AT&T doing with these unpermitted stations? I can't believe they were providing more service than they were allowed to. (For various reasons I have been a long-standing AT&T customer, none of those reasons being that I wanted to be one.) Is this an indicator of some other customer-screwing SOP that the old Ma Bell has devised? I won't be hanging around the comments to find out; just curious, and offer the issue as one that could stand a little more explanation.

    1. Mike VandeVelde
      Joke

      Re: re: Bootnote

      "engaged in unauthorized operations."

      Allowing NSA spying.

      ROLOLOLOFLMFAOLOLOL

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    So nothing really changes....

    They didn't mandate the speeds, just words and corporations are very good a weasel wording. Almost as good as politicians. Nothing will change. In another 10 years, we'll still have crappy speeds in most of the country (unless Google somehow manages to change the cable company mindset) and these arguments over the wording of what's being sold. And the price for the same crap will increase.... <sigh>

  9. Kevin 6

    Now only if they would make it illegal to have data caps as I see with the upgrade in speed will be a downgrade in the already ludicrously low data caps a lot of ISP's already got.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      What makes you think there will be an upgrade in speed anytime soon? Speed wasn't mandated, only the "description"...

      1. Swarthy
        Facepalm

        @ Mark

        ..You could try reading the article, or even the comments above, before 'correcting' others. Click the link, I don't feel like re-typing something that's been said twice.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: @ Mark

          I did.. no where did they tell the cables to up their speed. They just changed the "definition" of broadband. Telling them to up their speeds should then be the next logical step... we'll see.

  10. Sykobee

    Make the definition apply to real-world experienced speeds...

    I think most people would prefer the term to apply to minimum real-world speeds at peak hours, rather than advertised theoretical max speed if you were to live next door to the exchange/cabinet.

    Also what's wrong with tiered specification, rather than a single term? Many people don't need 25mbps down/3mbps up, but could do with a "basic broadband" service of 10mbps/1mbps.

  11. Sherrie Ludwig

    I would be giddy if I could get

    the 5Mbps that is the "best available DSL" for which I pay $25 a month for, but I get (on a good day) POINT 5Mbps download and POINT 3Mbps upload tested in my rural corner of the Illinois-Wisconsin border in the US. Have contacted numerous companies that stuff my snail mail box and my email inbox with offers, they come out, wave an electric thingy or don't come out and look on a map and say "sorry, we don't have authorization to cover this area/ don't have enough signal/ too far from the tower/wire station/junction/whatever. AT and effingT is the only game in town for anything including dial-up, unless I splash out for a grand or so in equipment for satellite and no guarantees there, either.

  12. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    How about working on prices?

    How about working on prices? We have a duopoly locally (Mediacom cable or CenturyLink DSL), both have like ~$30 a month or so introductory prices -- but then prices go up substantially, closer to $40-50 a month just for 1.5mbps DSL or 3mbps cable, and $60-120 a month for anything faster. I'm in the ridiculous situation where with two landline sources of internet, satellite costs substantially less -- I can get 12mbps down/3mbps up for $45, this'd cost me about $70 via these other jokers.

    Just saying, I don't need higher speeds, I want lower prices for the lower speeds!

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