Cable Companies Want a Watered Down Definition of Broadband

January 25, 2015 Updated: January 25, 2015

The cable industry opposes plans by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to redefine broadband internet as download and upload speeds of at least 25 and 3 Mbps respectively, up from the current 4 and 1 Mbps. 

The definition will affect which broadband construction projects qualifies for subsidies from the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF), which will spend billions in the next five-years to make broadband internet available to rural, hard-to-reach areas. 

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), a cable lobbying group, opposes the redefinition, arguing that the majority of the application of high-speed internet is well below the proposed threshold. 

“Netflix, for instance, bases its call for a 25 Mbps download threshold on what it believes consumers need for streaming 4K and ultra-HD video content9 —despite the fact that only a tiny fraction of consumers use their broadband connections in this manner,” the NCTA wrote in a filing with the FCC on Thursday. 

The definition holds symbolic value in the public discourse on internet availability because the FCC is required to conduct an annual report on whether broadband “is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.” 

“In reality, these hypotheticals dramatically exaggerate the amount of bandwidth needed

by the typical broadband user, and the Commission’s own recent findings bear out this reality. Just last month, the Commission determined that an Internet service provider must offer speeds of 10 Mbps/1 Mbps in order to be eligible for broadband-related CAF support,” the NCTA’s filing states. 

Before settling on the speeds of 25 and 3 Mbps, FCC chair Tom Wheeler had previously considered raising the minimum speeds of broadband to 10 Mbps/1 Mbps, which had been also contested by the cable industry. 

“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 in September. “Even recognizing that the definition of broadband will evolve over time, the Notice presents no record basis for a conclusion at this time that a service of less than 10 Mbps is no longer “advanced.”