There’s a bit of a dust-up at the Federal Communications Commission this week, over the agency seeking input on exactly how fast it should require “broadband” to be as it tries to expand high-speed internet deployments, and whether fixed and mobile “broadband” should be classified under the same speed requirements. Is it still a broadband internet deployment if all you have access to is 10 megabits per second on your phone?

The crux of the matter is that the FCC is taking comments on whether it should continue to go by the general rule that a minimum of 25 Mbps for download speed is considered a broadband deployment, or whether it should make exceptions for the type of technology that is supplying the connection — and mobile gets to be slower than fixed?

Commission Jessica Rosenworcel calls it “crazy” to lower broadband standards.

In the Notice of Inquiry that started all this, Chairman Ajit Pai’s FCC lays out a number of points on which it seeks input. From the notice (italics mine):

“We propose to maintain the current speed benchmark of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload (25 Mbps/3 Mbps) for fixed broadband, and we also seek comment about other potential benchmarks. Next, we seek comment on potential benchmarks and metrics for mobile broadband,” the FCC said. In another section: “We seek comment on whether a mobile speed benchmark of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps is
appropriate for mobile broadband services. Would a download speed benchmark higher or lower than 10
Mbps be appropriate for the purpose of assessing American consumers’ access to advanced
telecommunications capability?”

The 10 Mbps, by the way, is the minimum speed that are being required for operators like AT&T as it rolls out its rural coverage via LTE with funding from the Connect America Fund, and the FCC also noted that in its stance on the requirements for network performance metrics in its Mobility Fund II proceeding, the commission wanted a median data speed of 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that fixed wireless deployments for rural areas don’t live up to that 25 Mbps expectation:

So it 10 Mbps the bare minimum that customers ought to be able to expect for “universal service”-type connectivity even in rural areas, or should it be considered an advanced communications, “broadband” deployment? Should mobile broadband need to be as fast as fixed to be considered broadband? I guess that’s going to get hashed out. But if 10 Mbps does end up being defined as broadband, broadband coverage maps are certainly going to look a lot better, real fast.

As luck would have it, the chairman himself is on a tour of rural areas, including his hometown in Kansas this week, talking up the need to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural connectivity access.

I have to say, I’m curious as to just how “high-speed” the “high-speed” is that he’s talking about.

I welcome thoughts and input at [email protected]

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