Today the FCC put the final touches on their latest hair-brained idea for broadband in America. They have redefined “Broadband” to mean 25Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps to 3Mbps for uploads. Previously “Broadband” was defined as anything at or above 4 megabits per second. See what they did there? They gave “Broadband” a new definition. Now service providers won’t be able to meet this definition and the government will have to intervene. This is just one more step towards Net Neutrality, which I have written about several times on these pages. (You can watch my interview with former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell)
In a 3-2 vote, the commission approved a measure that increases the minimum standard for broadband speed, giving the agency more power to force internet service providers to improve their service.
The definition of broadband is set to be raised from 4 megabits per second (Mbps) to 25Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps to 3Mbps for uploads.
With that speed as the benchmark, significantly fewer Americans have access to high-speed broadband. Under the previous definition, 19 million Americans were without access; the new definition means that 55 million Americans – 17% of the population – now do not have access to high-speed broadband, according to the FCC’s 2015 Broadband Progress Report, which is in the final editing process but was cited at the hearing.
Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, our FCC is charged with making sure broadband “is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion”. So, if the service you are paying the same amount for today is no longer broadband tomorrow, who do you think will pay for the new and ever increasing speed demands? And, if you’re dissatisfied with your cable provider today, what exactly does changing the definition of broadband do to improve that relationship? While the US might be ranked 25th in broadband speed globally, changing the definition of the word “broadband” does nothing to improve access and encourage innovation. Do you ever wonder why companies like Netflix and Google aren’t founded in other countries? Our open and free markets create an environment where a couple of folks sitting around in their basement can have an idea they can take to market all by themselves. If we want better Internet in this country we don’t need more intrusive and strangling regulation by the government, we need less. With moves like this and Net Neutrality you only need look at the massive innovation of the telephone over a 50 year period (there was basically none) to see what will happen if the Internet falls under Title II control. It wasn’t until the government loosened their stranglehold on the telecommunications industry that we got things like provider choice, call waiting, call forwarding and the like. While these may even seem like dinosaur inventions these days, keep in mind this same deregulation also gave you that shiny cell phone you’re reading this article on.
Changing definitions doesn’t bring the Internet to more people, it doesn’t make it faster or better or cheaper. Changing definitions only give the government a stronger hold on one of the last truly free and open market places we have left in this country.