Just when we thought the Federal Communications Commission was developing a rational plan to bring affordable, high-speed broadband to everyone in the country — particularly the financially disadvantaged who need it most — they screw it up. Royally.
Of course, here at CheapInternet.com, we have a vested interest in seeing the FCC develop a plan that will bring inexpensive, high-speed broadband to the masses sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, the FCC this week made the problem more difficult to fix by upping the definition of broadband.
What did the FCC do?
As inquisitr.com observed, “The FCC is also busy with the broadband internet definition, stating plans to upgrade the minimum speed to 25Mbps down (for watching streaming videos in high definition mostly) and 3Mbps up (for uploading to sites such as YouTube and Blip). This will raise the bandwidth for broadband internet speed across the board and possibly force providers such as Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to adjust their prices accordingly.”
It’s genius — the kind of genius that only disconnected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. could have come up with.
Let us explain: Millions of American families simply cannot afford sky-high internet service prices. We have long advocated programs that would reduce prices and make broadband service affordable and available to those struggling families. Too many American families just do not have the disposable income to subscribe to costly internet service. Without subsidized programs such as Comcast’s Internet Essentials and CenturyLink’s Internet Basics, those families will be forced to choose between feeding themselves and seeing their children fall behind in school due to lack of high-speed internet service, between paying the rent and having the internet service that will allow them to apply for better jobs and to climb out of poverty, and between filling their gas tanks and saving money by shopping online.
Instead of mandating a speed that makes the latest Hollywood high def movies easier to download on demand, the FCC should mandate a slower, but still adequate speed that allows the average American family to do their work, their homework, and watch videos without buffering.
We agree with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NTCA), an association of cable TV and other telecommunications providers, which has come out against the FCC’s new standards because the average American family simply does not require increased broadband internet speeds. The NTCA says the new definition isn’t necessary.
“Notably, no party provides any justification for adopting an upload speed benchmark of 3Mbps,” the NTCA said. “And the two parties that specifically urge the Commission to adopt a download speed benchmark of 25 Mbps – Netflix and Public Knowledge – both offer examples of applications that go well beyond the ‘current’ and ‘regular’ uses that ordinarily inform the Commission’s inquiry under Section 706.”
In other words, “broadband” has been redefined upward for the benefit of a few companies whose services and customers eat up vast swaths of bandwidth despite the fact that millions of needy American families are desperately in need of basic service, not Cadillac service.
And while we’re using automotive analogies, we might as well add this one: The FCC’s plan says everyone should have a Mercedes-Benz when all that millions of Americans really need is a safe, reliable, affordable Toyota.
Those whose internet usage requires blazing fast broadband — gamers and movie downloaders, for example — undoubtedly applaud this FCC action. And although it’s clear that the average internet user’s needs are rising, this is the wrong move at the wrong time for tens of millions of low-income Americans.
If the FCC’s new benchmark for broadband internet speed becomes the standard, cable television and telecommunication companies will undoubtedly find themselves in a situation where they must revise their data plans downward. Otherwise, the FCC’s new definition will force them to offer extremely low data limits and to charge exorbitant overage fees. Without these changes, the average cable bill will quickly become more unaffordable for everyone.
And that means no one wins except the elite customers and the companies who serve them.