FCC's Rosenworcel proposes '100/20' as new broadband minimum requirement

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed raising the minimum broadband speed standard in the U.S. from 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads to 100 Mbps for downloads and 20 Mbps for uploads.

The proposal was made in a Notice of Inquiry Rosenworcel circulated among her FCC colleagues as the agency prepares to undertake its annual evaluation of the state of broadband throughout the U.S., according to an FCC statement. 

“The needs of internet users long ago surpassed the FCC’s 25/3 speed metric, especially during a global health pandemic that moved so much of life online,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel, in the statement. “The 25/3 metric isn’t just behind the times, it’s a harmful one because it masks the extent to which low-income neighborhoods and rural communities are being left behind and left offline. That’s why we need to raise the standard for minimum broadband speeds now and while also aiming even higher for the future, because we need to set big goals if we want everyone everywhere to have a fair shot at 21st century success.”

The “25/3” standard was set in 2015, and has not been updated since. The Notice of Inquiry discusses a range of evidence supporting raising the standard to 100/20, including the requirements for new networks funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Rosenworcel also wants to use the proposed upgrade to 100/20 as a starting point for future upgrades including an eventual move to 1 Gbps for download and 500 Mbps for upload.

She also proposed that the FCC consider affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access as part of its determination as to whether broadband is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion.  

NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association applauded Rosenworcel’s proposal, with CEO Shirley Bloomfield, stating that it fits with NTCA’s vision for the future. “NTCA has long advocated that, as a nation, we need to aim higher and do better when it comes to setting broadband objectives,” Bloomfield said. “From proposing higher speed targets for universal service policy, to advocating for better broadband in the development of infrastructure funding grant programs, NTCA has consistently urged longer-term perspectives rather than short-term incremental views of what represent efficient investments and the ever-evolving level of services that consumers will need over time. We applaud Chairwoman Rosenworcel’s announcement today that she is proposing to increase the national standard for minimum broadband speeds and to set a long-term objective as well.”

Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS, also said it is about time for a change in minimum broadband requirements in the U.S., and that there is more work to do on the matter “For years INCOMPAS has been calling on the FCC to increase internet speeds in the United States from the sluggishly slow 25/3 Mbps benchmark in favor of gigabit goals,” Pickering said in a statement. “The US invented the internet, but we have fallen behind China, Europe and other nations who have set much higher standards than are currently being proposed. 

He added, “We are pleased to see Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel taking this important first step toward increasing internet speed benchmarks, and we encourage the entire FCC to think bigger and bolder by setting gigabit goals today that unleash a faster, better future for all American families and businesses.”