(Adds details of inquiry, comments)
By Alina Selyukh
WASHINGTON Aug 5 The U.S. Federal
Communications Commission on Tuesday proposed changing how it
measures high-speed Internet to potentially require download
speeds of 10 megabits per second (Mbps) or higher for a service
to qualify as broadband.
The FCC currently defines broadband, or high-speed Internet,
as 4 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed. The agency
will seek public comment on whether those bandwidth thresholds
should be increased and whether different ones should be set for
wired and wireless connections.
In a "notice of inquiry" released on Tuesday, the FCC asked
whether download speeds of 10 Mbps or higher should qualify as
broadband and whether the minimum upload speed rate should also
be higher to adequately address consumers' needs.
"As more people adopt faster broadband speeds, we are asking
if all consumers, even in the most rural regions, should have
greater access to better broadband," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
said in a statement.
U.S. consumers are increasingly using the Internet to stream
music and videos, make calls or use other services that continue
to demand faster speeds. For instance, Netflix recommends a 5
Mbps Internet connection speed to stream video in high
The FCC's recent assessments suggested a 10 Mbps download
bandwidth benchmark could satisfy moderate but not high Internet
use by a household of three.
U.S. telecommunications law gives the FCC the authority to
regulate Internet service providers (ISPs) such as Verizon
Communications Inc, Comcast Corp and AT&T Inc as it oversees the
roll-out of broadband services to all Americans "in a reasonable
and timely fashion."
A higher speed threshold for broadband, could influence the
U.S. government's perspective on competition among ISPs.
The FCC's recent reviews have found a notable portion of the
U.S. population, particularly in rural areas, lacks access to
If adopted, a stricter broadband definition could mean an
even smaller part of the U.S. population would be deemed as
having access to broadband and could reduce the areas of the
country where the FCC considers high-speed Internet to be
In Tuesday's notice, the FCC asks when it may consider
mobile services as a "functional equivalent" for fixed broadband
and how it should address broadband availability in areas where
multiple ISPs operate but no service meets the broadband
benchmark on its own.
It also seeks comment on whether the FCC should measure
speeds during hours of regular or peak use, how or whether it
should consider the impact of data caps, and various other
factors it could weigh.
In its latest report on progress in broadband deployment, in
2012, the FCC found 6 percent of Americans lacked access to
fixed broadband service. In rural areas, that group comprised
one-fourth of the population.
The FCC now will collect comments on a potential change of
broadband definition for 45 days as it prepares a new Broadband
Progress Report, an FCC official said.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh. Editing by Ros Krasny, Andre
Grenon and Paul Simao)