Incompas, USTelecom clash over broadband speed calculations

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The FCC’s review of the 25/3 Mbps wireline broadband definition continues to be a divisive issue, drawing criticism not only from industry organizations but also its own FCC commissioners.

In its Notice of Inquiry, the FCC wants to know if the regulator should realign the 25/3 Mbps broadband definition set by former FCC chairman Tom Wheeler. Previously, the benchmark was 10/1 Mbps.

There have been calls to lower the requirements for high-speed broadband benchmarks from 25 Mbps to 10 Mbps. Opponents like Incompas say such a proposal could redefine Section 706 standards to say that the availability of a wireless network offering 10/1 Mbps is sufficient broadband availability.

RELATED: Broadband now defined as 25 Mbps, FCC says

“The Notice of Inquiry proposes maintaining the current 25/3 standard for fixed broadband, but also seeks comment on whether we should consider modifying that benchmark, and also asks if there are additional benchmarks we should include, such as data allowances, latency, or consistency of service,” said the FCC in a statement Thursday. “We will see where the record leads us.”

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in a tweet yesterday that any attempt to knock down the broadband definition will not facilitate new broadband growth.

“Lowering standards doesn't solve our broadband problems,” tweeted Rosenworcel.

Industry organizations also were equally divided on the broadband definition with some arguing to raise the benchmark while others say it should remain the same.

Incompas, an organization that supports competitive service providers, says the FCC should consider raising the bar to define broadband as a 1 Gbps connection while upholding “its requirement that Americans have access to both high-speed fixed and mobile networks.”

“The Commission’s metrics for determining if fixed broadband is sufficient should take into account competitive offerings, current advertising by broadband providers, and future network needs,” Incompas said in an FCC filing (PDF). “Gigabit service is here and will support future uses. It is time for the FCC to update the speed for fixed broadband to 1 Gig.”

ITTA and USTelecom have an altogether different take on the broadband issue.

In a filing (PDF), ITTA said the commission should not alter the 25/3 Mbps definition, citing how broadband continues to enable a number of features, functions and applications.

“Retaining the 25/3 Mbps benchmark will better align Commission policies and practices,” ITTA said in its filing. “25/3 Mbps is the “baseline” performance tier for the Connect America Phase II (CAF II) auction,3 and it also constitutes a significant component of the speed deployment commitment for rate-of-return carriers electing model-based support,” ITTA said in a It was confusing when, barely one month after establishing 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload (10/1 Mbps) as the speed threshold for price cap carriers to accept a state-level commitment for model-based funding for broadband deployment, the Commission declared 25/3 Mbps to be the speed benchmark for evaluating whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner.”

USTelecom, while also not calling for a wholesale change, says the FCC should one definition is sufficient to define broadband availability.

“Although a speed benchmark can provide a useful snapshot view of the state of broadband deployment, the 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download, 3 Mbps upload (25/3) benchmark was arbitrarily selected based on a hypothetical family’s hypothetical bandwidth requirements for simultaneous use of multiple devices engaged in bandwidth-intense activities,” USTelecom said in its filing (PDF). “At the same time, it would be disruptive for the Commission to change or eliminate the current benchmark without evidence that broadband at those speeds does not meet the need of consumers as they typically use broadband services today.”

The organization added that the FCC “should also consider whether a single benchmark can appropriately takes into account the differences in broadband service technologies or variations in consumers’ perspectives about what is adequate deployment.”