Broadband internet still not available to 10% of America? That's a problem in 2016. The Republican fix to the problem is very simple: redefine "broadband internet speeds" downward until everyone qualifies.
A year after the Federal Communications Commission changed the definition of broadband Internet to include only faster speeds, Republicans in Congress are still mad about the decision.
Using the new broadband minimum speed of 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload, the FCC'sannual review of deployment this month said that broadband isn't being offered to about 34 million Americans. ISPs immediately criticized that assessment; yesterday their friends in Congress piled on.
Six Republican Senators—Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.)—outlined their concerns in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler yesterday. (The Hill reported on the letter andposted a copy.) "We are concerned that this arbitrary 25/3 Mbps benchmark fails to accurately capture what most Americans consider broadband... Looking at the market for broadband applications, we are aware of few applications that require download speeds of 25Mbps," the senators wrote. "Netflix, for example, recommends a download speed of 5Mbps to receive high-definition streaming video, and Amazon recommends a speed of 3.5Mbps. In addition, according to the FCC's own data, the majority of Americans who can purchase 25Mbps service choose not to."
The Republicans' argument seems to assume a household with just one Internet-connected device running a single application. When the FCC increased the definition of broadband from 4Mbps/1Mbps to 25Mbps/3Mbps, it said that families are using multiple devices simultaneously and that the older broadband standard was "inadequate for evaluating whether broadband capable of supporting today’s high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video is being deployed to all Americans in a timely way.”
ISPs themselves admit as much in their marketing, Wheeler argued a year ago, pointing out that Verizon says 25Mbps speeds are "best for one to three devices at the same time, great for surfing, e-mail, online shopping and social networking, [and] streaming two HD videos simultaneously." Verizon's marketing pushed 50Mbps as the speeds families should get if they use three to five devices at the same time.
So why is this such a big deal to Republicans and the ISP who they own? Because net neutrality rules work off of the availability of broadband. Republicans want to define the category of broadband downward so that ISPs can meet net neutrality competition standards more easily.
Nice of them, huh.