FCC boss says 25Mbps isn't cutting it, Americans deserve 100Mbps now, gigabit later

First refresh of minimums in eight years for the country that invented the internet

FCC boss Jessica Rosenworcel thinks Americans deserve better broadband than the current minimum speeds of 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up. She has thus proposed boosting these lower bounds at least fourfold, with the "long term" goal of upping this further to 1Gbps down and 500Mbps up.

In a statement this week, the FCC chairwoman proposed raising the minimum broadband standard to 100Mbps down and 20Mbps up, the first revision in eight years. Prior to 2015, broadband in the US - the nation that created the internet - was defined as at least 4Mbps down and a glacial 1Mbps up.

"In today's world, everyone needs access to affordable, high-speed internet, no exceptions," Rosenworcel said in a statement. "It's time to connect everyone, everywhere. Anything short of 100 percent is just not good enough."

The increase in minimum upload bandwidth is particularly notable in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote work and school. If you're collaborating remotely, a decent uplink and low latency are ideal.

The proposed change would bring the broadband standard in line with existing broadband development programs, like the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM), which was adopted by the FCC earlier this week.

Originally launched in 2016, A-CAM is a voluntary program that provides financial incentives to ISPs that deploy broadband service in under-served regions. To qualify for the Enhanced A-CAM program and the $13.5 billion in funding it affords over the next 10 years, service providers will now be required to offer speeds of at least 100/20Mbps.

As we reported in February, 42 million Americans lack access to decent broadband internet. Should the FCC adopt more stringent broadband standards, we suspect that number will increase by a significant margin, unless telcos get their act together.

Which locations are eligible for A-CAM funding will be determined by the FCC's national broadband map. However, the veracity of these maps has been called into question, with policymakers in some parts of the US complaining the maps don't paint an accurate picture of service availability and speeds.

Internet service providers will also be required to achieve speeds of at least 100/20Mbps in order to qualify for funding under the Biden administration's Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, which was introduced as part of the bipartisan infrastructure deal signed into law in 2021.

Last month, the US President revealed his plan to divide those funds up among the nation's states and territories.

Rosenworcel said the FCC has its sights set on much faster connectivity in the future. The agency has proposed establishing a national goal of 1Gbps download speeds and 500Mbps uploads. While fiber internet service capable of these speeds is available in many parts of the US, it's largely limited to metropolitan areas, so it's likely a really, really long-term project. ®

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