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U.S. Cable Industry Says to FCC That Consumers Don't Need 25 Mbps Speed

Dan York

Apparently, we consumers in the USA don't need to have broadband speeds of 25 Mbps or higher. And we certainly don't need upload speeds greater than 3 Mbps! At least, that's according to comments filed to the US Federal Communications Committee (FCC) by the National Cable & Telecommunications Assocation (NCTA) in response to the FCC's proposal to raise the definition of "broadband" from 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream to 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up.

The NCTA says in their comments related to the FCC's reporting:

Courts and the Commission have consistently interpreted this mandate as focusing on services that can support "current," "regular" uses of broadband. And the record developed in response to the Tenth Broadband Progress NOI reflects broad consensus that the level of service necessary to enable such uses of broadband — including video streaming, gaming, voice-over-Internet-protocol, social media, and other applications — is well below the 25 Mbps/3 Mbps threshold currently under consideration.

The comments go on to explain why they believe several of the use cases for why the definition should be raised are exaggerated, and then states:

The Commission also noted that a relatively small percentage of consumers who have access to speeds of 25 Mbps/3Mbps actually choose to purchase service at those speeds, while most consumers tellingly opt for lower speeds that meet their needs. In light of these findings, the adoption of a 25 Mbps/3 Mbps benchmark would improperly substitute the speculative judgment of the Commission for the actual, demonstrated preferences of consumers in the marketplace, and would be entirely out of step with current consumer conceptions of "broadband."

Being one of those people apparently in the "relatively small percentage" who purchases service at those speeds1, I can say that my own perspective in talking to friends and neighbors is that everyone I know wishes their Internet connection worked faster. I have yet to hear someone with an Internet connection under 25Mbps/3Mbps say to me "I don't need a faster Internet connection — mine is fine as it is.” Have any of you?

Instead I hear people saying that they had a buffering issue while watching a video stream ... or had dropouts in a VoIP call… or just wished Facebook or Instagram would load faster.

While the NCTA comments say "most consumers tellingly opt for lower speeds that meet their needs”, I think it has far less to do with "meeting their needs" than it does with "meeting the price that they can afford to pay”.

Which I think is really the point here… if the FCC raises the bar on what "broadband" is defined as, then in their subsequent "Annual Broadband Progress Report" documents, the cable industry will look to be in a worse position. And that will shine light on the pricing models and the lack of competition.

Meanwhile, at the same time that the NCTA is saying 25Mbps/3Mbps is more than consumers need, Google is announcing plans to bring 1Gbps Google Fiber to four more US cities. And Ookla's "Household Download Index" shows that download speeds are already over 25Mbps in many parts of the world.

As we move more and more of our daily communication, collaboration and creation "into the cloud", we will need faster speeds. As we increasingly move into richer modes of communication, we will need faster speeds. I think the reality is that most consumers would want a 25Mbps/3Mbps or faster connection if it was available to them — and if they could afford it.

Other views on this topic:

P.S. Now, in fairness, the NCTA comments do point out that the FCC currently has different "broadband" speeds that it uses for different purposes and that these should be made more consistent — and that does make sense from what I can read there.

1 I currently pay for 30 Mbps down and 5 Mpbs up, primarily because I work from a home office.

By Dan York, Author and Speaker on Internet technologies - and on staff of Internet Society. Dan is employed as a Senior Content Strategist with the Internet Society but opinions posted on CircleID are entirely his own. Visit the blog maintained by Dan York here.

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Comments

NCTA Publishes Rebuttal Blog Post Dan York  –  Jan 28, 2015 12:39 PM PDT

The NCTA today published a post on their blog titled "FCC's New Broadband Definition Fails Everyone" that answers the criticisms leveled at them by many different sites with regard to these comments they submitted to the FCC.  The post is at:

https://www.ncta.com/platform/public-policy/fccs-new-broadband-definition-fails-everyone/

with a key rebuttal statement being:

The idea that we’re opposed to this definitional change because we think 25 Mbps isn’t a worthwhile offering – that we don’t want you to have faster Internet – is truly absurd.

and goes on to state that they see this reclassification of "broadband" as a way for the FCC to expand its regulatory authority.

Having not explored the issue in huge detail, I can't comment on the accuracy of that viewpoint and will leave that for others who may want to weigh in.

FCC Adopts New Broadband Definition of 25 Mbps down / 3 Mbps up Dan York  –  Jan 29, 2015 12:15 PM PDT

As a continued follow-up to the story, the FCC today adopted the 2015 Broadband Progress Report that changes the definition of "broadband" to be 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream:

http://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-finds-us-broadband-deployment-not-keeping-pace

The Verge also has a piece on this today:

http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/29/7932653/fcc-changed-definition-broadband-25mbps

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