FCC says taxpayer-bankrolled bumpkin broadband must be at least 10Mbps

Rural internet gets same standards as cityfolk

Good news, hayseeds: the FCC has ruled that rural broadband should be held to the same standard as that of connections in built-up cities and towns.

The stateside regulator has issued a new order, which states that in the US countryside, providers must maintain at least a 10Mbit/s downlink speed for subscribers if they want to call it "broadband". The ruling will apply to ISPs that receive taxpayer dollars through the FCC's Connect America Fund.

Previously, the FCC required ISPs to deliver a 4Mbps connection in order to get the rural broadband funding. Companies are also required to deliver 1Mbps upload speeds. The increased bandwidth is supposed to match the speeds of urban connections, and is the first for the Connect America Fund program since 2011.

The order comes as the FCC approved a rise in the E-rate budget that bumps the cap on public spending for broadband in schools and libraries from $2.4bn to $3.9bn.

"Congress directed the FCC to make available in rural areas communications services that are reasonably comparable to those in urban areas," the FCC said in announcing the rural internet order.

"Increasing the Connect America speed requirement means that rural Americans, like urban Americans, can tap the benefits provided by broadband through faster web downloads, improved video streaming, and service capable of supporting multiple users in a household."

Boosting the quality of broadband service for rural Americans has been a priority for the Obama administration.

Because rural areas in the US are sparsely populated, running the cable needed for broadband has been a tough sell for telcos, prompting the government to step in and incentivize expanding coverage.

The $4.5bn Connect America Fund was established in 2011 with the aim of expanding and improving phone and broadband service in the American countryside.

The fund is slated to run through 2020 with the goal of connecting 100 million US homes countrywide with 100Mbps broadband. ®

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