Services, not just speed, should determine broadband classification

An updated definition of advanced service capability should consider more than raw speed, UNH BCoE suggests.
Symmetrical performance should be the goal for a new broadband definition, UNH BCoE suggests.

In considering a new definition of what constitutes “broadband” Internet connectivity, the Federal Communications Commission should consider performance levels necessary to convey a base set of services that flow over high-speed networks, more so than “raw” measures of speed.

That’s among the recommendations made by the UNH Broadband Center of Excellence in its Sept. 4 submission to the FCC regarding a possible redefinition of U.S. broadband service standards.

The BCoE filing suggests that “The FCC could consider the services that broadband should deliver simultaneously for each American citizen rather than raw speed. The BCoE believes that all Americans can and should have broadband services that can deliver:

  • Two simultaneous live video conferencing feeds
  • Streaming of three HD videos
  • Four uninterrupted voice lines
  • Constant two-way access to Web services, i.e., chat and texting”
UNH BCoE’s filing also suggests that any new broadband measurement standard insist on equal network performance for both downstream (network to user) and upstream (user to network) use cases. “A symmetrical service of a minimum of 10 Mbps per household should be the baseline for broadband offerings to all Americans,” UNH BCoE wrote. “Today’s two-way utilization requirements have rendered the use of asymmetrical broadband connections unacceptable.”

As part of a Notice of Inquiry for its forthcoming Broadband Progress assessment, the FCC has invited comments on whether and/or how to reclassify Internet delivery networks and determine whether they meet a “broadband” performance standard. Currently, the agency considers networks that deliver downstream data rates of 4 megabits per second or greater to constitute a broadband service.

Questions the commission aims to consider are:

  • What is advanced telecommunications capability?
  • How should broadband deployment be measured?
  • Is broadband being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely manner?
  • What actions can accelerate deployment?

The filing also said the U.S. has fallen short of goals for ubiquitous broadband availability, noting that certain areas of the U.S. remain unserved, and pointing out that broadband costs are out of reach for some Americans.

Here’s the UNH BCoE filing in full.