FCC Should Set Bar High for Broadband Definition

Contact Info: 
Moira Vahey, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x31

WASHINGTON -- Free Press filed comments Monday with the Federal Communications Commission about how the term "broadband" should be defined in future policymaking at the agency.

Public comment was sought on speed, price, technology and services available, and on a range of other characteristics that impact Americans’ online experience. The input will help the FCC in crafting the national broadband plan, as well as for the agency’s annual review of the state of broadband, implementing the Broadband Data Improvement Act, and further policymaking under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In the comments, Free Press emphasized the importance of creating a "future-proof" definition that treats broadband as critical infrastructure and takes into account the services and applications consumers can utilize with their connection, especially high-quality video communications.

Derek Turner, research director of Free Press, made the following statement:

"We need a definition of broadband that sets the right course for policy in this country and returns the United States to a position of world leadership. A single static number cannot define ‘broadband’-- there must be evolving standards. The standards should be set to match what users can actually do with their connections. Congress has set a standard for broadband in important legislation and agency mandates. The FCC must match that standard and also set high-reaching targets that consider broadband as critical infrastructure and that will ensure America is a leader in the global communications economy."

Read Free Press’ recommendations for how the FCC should define broadband here: www.freepress.net/files/FreePress_Broadband_Definition_Comments.pdf

Free Press offered the following recommendations:

  • The FCC should aim for a world-class, "future-proof" network. The FCC should establish an evolving "target" goal to position America as a global leader in online communications. Speeds as high as 1 gigabit per-second are being deployed in other countries, and the agency must take into account America’s long-term success and global competitiveness.
  • Connections should enable high-quality two-way video communications. At a minimum, "broadband" should be defined at speeds of 5 megabits per-second symmetrical, to allow one user to access and share high-quality video content. The agency should also take into consideration that multi-user and multi-tasking homes require much higher speeds.
  • The definition must be rooted in actual delivered speeds. The agency should rely on real speeds -- not advertised speeds -- to determine what the user can really do with the connection.
  • The agency must consider all factors that impact users' experience. Artificial limits imposed by providers cripple the utility of the connection and should not be tolerated. Connections must be offered in a manner consistent with the FCC's open Internet principles and must include access to the full Internet.
  • Broadband should be viewed as critical infrastructure. Smart grids, distance learning and telehealth have transformed broadband from a consumer service to an essential infrastructure, and the FCC should focus on developing infrastructure for the long haul.
  • Mobile broadband should not be defined separately from fixed services. Whether mobile or fixed, the broadband connection should still be able to deliver the same applications and services for users.


Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net

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