Many Americans technically no longer have a broadband Internet connection, thanks to a decision by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC has revised the definition of broadband services, raising the standard for downloads from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps and the upload speed from 1 Mbps to 3 Mbps.
Since the average speed of Internet service in the U.S. is 10 Mbps, the decision means that many Americans are using Internet connections that are now no longer considered broadband. With this new definition, the FCC reported that 55 million Americans, or 17 percent of the population, do not have access to broadband services. This is especially true in rural areas, where 20 percent of people lack access to even the previous 4 Mbps standard of broadband.
The FCC’s decision was contentious, with the commissioners voting 3 to 2 along party lines. The two Republican commissioners referred to the decision as overreaching, while Democratic commissioners, including Chair Tom Wheeler, believe the new standards better reflect reality.
With the implementation of the new standards, broadband providers will need to step up their game. The FCC’s decision may also be related to its goal of setting new net neutrality rules. The proposed new rules would reclassify broadband providers to provide a legal basis for regulation, though conservative opponents believe it would harm business.