AT&T, Verizon challenge the FCC's proposed 10 Mbps broadband definition

AT&T (NYSE: T) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) are challenging the FCC's call to raise the broadband definition from 4 Mbps to 10 Mbps, claiming that the majority of consumers don't need higher speeds, reports Ars Technica.

"Given the pace at which the industry is investing in advanced capabilities, there is no present need to redefine 'advanced' capabilities," AT&T wrote in a filing.

"Consumer behavior strongly reinforces the conclusion that a 10 Mbps service exceeds what many Americans need today to enable basic, high-quality transmissions," added AT&T in a later part of its filing.

Verizon echoed a similar sentiment, writing that while consumers' desire for higher speeds will continue to rise, a 4 Mbps connection is sufficient for today's user.

"The Commission's inquiry seeks comment on whether to adopt a new speed benchmark, such as 10Mbps," Verizon wrote. "The data confirm that the availability and adoption of higher-speed services continue to steadily increase, and it may well make sense for the Commission to monitor progress with respect to such higher-speed services. At the same time, the data confirm that services providing 4Mbps/1Mbps are still popular and meaningful to consumers."

AT&T and Verizon may offer faster broadband speeds in parts of their territories, but today's reality is that a large portion of their customers can only get slower DSL service.

Verizon has built out its FiOS fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) to 6.3 million of the 9.1 subscribers it serves, but the telco has maintained it won't expand the fiber broadband service into any new territories. AT&T can provide up to 45 Mbps service to about 70 percent of its subscribers via its fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) architecture, leaving the rest on its legacy DSL service. It is also moving ahead with plans to deliver 1 Gbps-capable FTTH service in select markets of its territory.

While individual cable operators like Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) did not file their own comments, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) sided with AT&T and Verizon.

"The Commission should not change the baseline broadband speed threshold from 4Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream because a 4/1 Mbps connection is still sufficient to perform the primary functions identified in section 706 [of the Telecommunications Act]—high-quality voice, video, and data," the NCTA wrote.

These revelations emerged after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a speech last Thursday at Washington, D.C.-based startup incubator 1776 that a 10 Mbps connection may even be too slow.

In 2010, the FCC 2010 raised its definition for the minimum broadband speeds from 200 Kbps to 4/1 Mbps.

"A 25 Mbps connection is fast becoming 'table stakes' in 21st century communications," Wheeler said.

According to FCC data, only three-quarters of U.S. consumers can use one provider that offers a 25 Mbps connection, while only 8.4 percent can't get access to a 10 Mbps connections, and another 30.3 percent have access from only one ISP.

For more:
- Ars Technica has this article
- see AT&T's FCC filing
- and Verizon's filing

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