FCC redefines Internet broadband speeds
Feb. 9, 2015
by Mark Ollig

Our friends at the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) recently stepped up to the Internet baseball plate, swung their bat, and solidly hit the ball.

I won’t say they hit it out of the park, but I will commend them for recognizing the need to modernize the definition of “broadband” Internet speed.

Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, requires the FCC to report annually on whether broadband “is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion,” and to take “immediate action” if it is not.

The 2015 Broadband Progress Report was approved by the FCC Jan. 29.

Per this report, the FCC’s newly updated broadband benchmark speed is now 25 Mbps (Megabits per second) when you’re downloading data from the Internet, and 3 Mbps when uploading data to the Internet.

Previously, the FCC defined broadband as 4 Mbps down, and 1 Mbps up.

The 4 Mbps is also defined by the FCC as the minimum downloading speed for watching an HD-quality streaming movie.

The largest subscription video provider, Netflix, which during peak video viewing times is said to use about 35 percent of the Internet’s bandwidth, says 5 Mbps is required for HD-quality video.

You can read the Netflix Internet connection speed recommendations via its webpage: https://help.netflix.com/en/node/306.

The FCC’s Broadband Speed Guide can be found at: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/broadband-speed-guide.

The FCC’s news release stated it recognizes the end-user’s connection to the Internet must be able to handle today’s greater bandwidth and higher data speeds used for providing their voice, data, video, and graphic services.

The 2015 broadband report stated 55 million Americans lack access to this new broadband definition; meaning, 17 percent of the US population does not have 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service.

Of this 55 million, 22 million, who are living in rural areas of the country, are not being served by this new FCC broadband definition.

Surprisingly, 8 percent of the people living in the cities and urban parts of America are unable to get access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband speeds.

The report acknowledges there is still a significant “digital divide” between urban and rural America.

Rural America, according to the FCC report, “continues to be underserved at all speeds.”

One of the key findings of the report listed 20 percent of people living in rural areas lack access to 4 Mbps/1 Mbps Internet access speeds.

Internet speeds of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps are unavailable to 31 percent of rural Americans, per the 2015 Broadband Progress Report.

It also points out over half of all rural Americans lack access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps broadband.

Fiber optic networks, the preferred communications transmission medium (in my humble opinion) for providing and supporting the advanced broadband “digital-learning tools,” is still not being provided to roughly 35 percent of this country’s schools, per the Jan. 29, 2015 FCC news release.

Do you want to know how fast of an Internet connection you have?

Testing your current Internet speed can be accomplished using your Internet Service Provider (ISP) recommended test site, or other speed testing sites on the Internet.

One very popular Internet speed testing site yours truly uses, is provided by broadband testing and web-based network diagnostic company, Ookla, which operates speedtest.net.

You can test your Internet speed here: http://www.speedtest.net.

The US Congress defines broadband as a “high-quality” means which allow users to “originate and receive high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video” services.

A PDF (portable document format) file of the Jan. 29 FCC news release can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/ppthk2w.

It was The Communications Act of 1934, which established the FCC’s authority.

This Act replaced the authority of the Federal Radio Commission, which began in 1926.

Before the Federal Radio Commission, there was the Radio Act of 1912, which required every radio station in the US to be licensed by the federal government.

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