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Government Communications Network The Internet United States

The FCC Is Preparing To Weaken the Definition of Broadband (dslreports.com) 217

An anonymous reader quotes a report from DSLReports: Under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, the FCC is required to consistently measure whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans uniformly and "in a reasonable and timely fashion." If the FCC finds that broadband isn't being deployed quickly enough to the public, the agency is required by law to "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market." Unfortunately whenever the FCC is stocked by revolving door regulators all-too-focused on pleasing the likes of AT&T, Verizon and Comcast -- this dedication to expanding coverage and competition often tends to waver.

What's more, regulators beholden to regional duopolies often take things one-step further -- by trying to manipulate data to suggest that broadband is faster, cheaper, and more evenly deployed than it actually is. We saw this under former FCC boss Michael Powell (now the top lobbyist for the cable industry), and more recently when the industry cried incessantly when the base definition of broadband was bumped to 25 Mbps downstream, 4 Mbps upstream. We're about to see this effort take shape once again as the FCC prepares to vote in February for a new proposal that would dramatically weaken the definition of broadband. How? Under this new proposal, any area able to obtain wireless speeds of at least 10 Mbps down, 1 Mbps would be deemed good enough for American consumers, pre-empting any need to prod industry to speed up or expand broadband coverage.

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The FCC Is Preparing To Weaken the Definition of Broadband

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  • So it no longer means "Frequency-Division Multiplexing"?

    It also blows my mind how many people in the field don't know the difference between broadband and baseband.

    • by Jesus_666 ( 702802 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @08:28AM (#55868155)
      "Boadband" has never been particularly well defined. It can be used to mean "wideband", it can be used to mean "every signal that isn't passband" and it can be used to mean "every signal that occupies multiple non-masking channels". All of those definitions are correct. The meaning of "transmission speeds generally considered fast" has been in general use for well over two decades now, making it about as uncontroversial as the use of "to hack" in a context that doesn't involve an axe.

      Broadband has never had anything to do with FDM specifically. Or rather, there have always been definitions of the term that didn't have anything to do with FDM.
      • You would be wrong. Frequency division multiplexing (analog signals) was referred to as broadband going back several decades. Many of the technologies used today that are referred to as broadband are actually baseband, or time division multiplexing (digital signals).

    • That was the definition in the Microsoft MCSE prep books, but I never found the definition used much anywhere else. I also learned a lot of defunct stuff in those books - so I always kind of wondered if I was crazy with my "broadband" definition. And, not knowing anything about how ADSL works under the covers, it may as well be broadband. So might 3G for all I know!

      • That was the definition in almost every industry textbook. Long before it was degraded to broadband = fast Internet connection.

  • by PseudoThink ( 576121 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @08:35AM (#55868181)
    From this Reddit post [reddit.com]:

    Repealing Net Neutrality may be the first step in a five-step plan from cable companies to combat their competition and cord-cutters:
    1. Step 1: Repeal Net Neutrality, then offer new, unlimited data plans for mobile/home Internet. Convince people to buy into these "forever unlimited" data plans.
    2. Step 2: Get all data usage (mobile and home) classified under a single umbrella.
    3. Step 3: Quash ISP startups with new regulations making it infeasible for them to access utility poles, junctions, and network infrastructure.
    4. Step 4: Implement data caps on all the "forever unlimited" data plans. ("Because we have to--don't let bandwidth abusers take your Internet!")
    5. Step 5: Now you are forced to pay $100/month for up to 10-20 GB per month (hint: this translates to about 3 to 7 hours of HD Netflix per month). It will be very expensive to go over that, especially for non-preferred sites (think anything like Kodi, Tor, torrents, etc.).

    Thoughts?

    • From this Reddit post:

      Now that Net Neutrality has been killed, my ISP won't allow me to go to Reddit unless I upgrade my service to the Internet Unlimited(TM) pack. :-(

    • by prefec2 ( 875483 )

      Makes sense. However, you forgot to point out that you can have Netflix with your favorite telco for some extra and of course the contract is fix for 48 month. Also if you switch to another provider, your Netflix account will go too as it is included.

    • by cmaurand ( 768570 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:52AM (#55868627)
      Around here, municipalities are installing their own fiber last miles. It's carrier neutral. Eventually, independent operators will be on those systems, they will interconnect and the big carriers will be sucking wind trying to suck money out of old outdated infrastructure. Break the rules.
    • Data Caps and Ant-Net Neutrality have always been about the ISPs protecting their TV revenue by leveraging their broadband monopolies.

    • Step 1: Repeal Net Neutrality, then offer new, unlimited data plans for mobile/home Internet. Convince people to buy into these "forever unlimited" data plans.

      Wow, what a bunch of evil bastards. Good thing smart people like these brave Redditors won't be fooled and will obstinately stick with their tried and true capped plans.

      Step 2: Get all data usage (mobile and home) classified under a single umbrella.

      All these propositions seem to me to be the byproduct of a few too many fertile imaginations with a bit too much time on their hands, but this one particularly takes the cake. Are they suggesting the United States would essentially co-opt all ISPs and telecom companies and force them to do business in such a restricted way? Has it crossed

    • by RedK ( 112790 )

      Thoughts?

      It depends on having "more FCC intervention". In fact, the reason for the Net Neutrality repeal, as is for most Trump era policy changes, is "Reducing regulations and less intervention". Thus your imagined doomsday scenario is highly flawed. If your plan involves "more governement", it's probably fantasy and fiction for this administration.

      If you wanted it to be a credible outcome, you needed to stick with "Corporate takeover", while steering clear of any blatant Sherman act violations (you guys remember

  • 100% broadband penetration, ho! Took 'em long enough.
  • The foxes are well and truly running your hen house now. You'd be better off disbanding the FCC altogether.
  • Can we finally disband the FCC and let the ISPs themselves take over their agenda? It's not like anyone really still believes that they're not a 100% subsidiary by now anyway.

  • 10MBps is just fine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @09:22AM (#55868427) Homepage

    I'm sure I'll be flamed here for this, but I always thought the 25Mbps definition was too high as a "minimum definition." An HD NetFlix stream is 5Mbps. 10Mbps allows two simultaneous HD streams, or one HD stream plus plenty of headroom for other normal activities. I would rather that the FCC define it to be 10Mbps, but actually check that this bandwidth is available consistently during peak usage. The reason to make it as high as 25Mbps is because the telcos rarely actually deliver their promised speeds.

    • by Jaegs ( 645749 )

      "10Mbps allows two simultaneous HD streams, or one HD stream plus plenty of headroom for other normal activities"

      And how often do you think you'll actually get 10Mbps, especially as the FCC continues to weaken itself for the benefit of ISPs?

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        50% of my comment addresses this. Read the whole thing before responding.

      • "10Mbps allows two simultaneous HD streams, or one HD stream plus plenty of headroom for other normal activities"

        And how often do you think you'll actually get 10Mbps, especially as the FCC continues to weaken itself for the benefit of ISPs?

        I think that was the point the GP was making. Between "up to 25mbits/sec down" that never, ever is, and "10Mbits/sec down, a minimum of 98% uptime, with no more than 10% oversubscription", and have it enforced, the latter would be preferable.

      • Depends on when and where you are; Comcast at my office (no other choice unless we want to spend 4+ figures on a buildout plus close to $1000/mo for 'enterprise' services) usually lays down 120x24, though the service is labelled 100x20. During the day, however, it averages something like 90/15 on a good day. Drops into the 50/sub-megabit region happen on a semi-regular basis.
    • If you're a single-person household, Netflix-watching couch potato, then 10Mb is probably fine for you. If you live in a family household, or if you have anything even remotely resembling an entrepreneurial spirit, 10mb down doesn't do much. And 1mb up?! That's a bad joke with a really shitty punchline.

      25mb down and 4mb up is just (barely) enough to satisfy fundamentally basic needs for someone with more drive than just an old, fat cat. And even that is chuckle-worthy. 100mb symmetrical at about $50/mo

      • 100mb symmetrical at about $50/month should be a minimum mandated starting point to drive innovation.

        Regulating the price is about the surest way to prevent any new entrants from entering the market.

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        I agree with your numbers. Just be aware that are talking about the minimum definition of the word broadband. A household with multiple people streaming video + an entrepreneur isn't really the definition of minimum.

    • I'm sure I'll be flamed here for this, but I always thought the 25Mbps definition was too high as a "minimum definition." An HD NetFlix stream is 5Mbps. 10Mbps allows two simultaneous HD streams, or one HD stream plus plenty of headroom for other normal activities. I would rather that the FCC define it to be 10Mbps, but actually check that this bandwidth is available consistently during peak usage. The reason to make it as high as 25Mbps is because the telcos rarely actually deliver their promised speeds.

      I agree, except maybe bumping the upload to 2-3 for video calls. Otherwise, you're right. that's about all you need to get 1-2 decent video streams. If you have a family, then you need either a family plan or to learn to manage bandwidth as a resource.

    • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      After reading replies, I have another proposal: instead of defining it to be some arbitrary number like "25mbps" or "10mbps" perhaps they should define it in a market-driven way. For example, define it as 1 video stream + 1 person shopping on the web. Similar to how things like the CPI or cost-of-living is determined.

      Please be aware that we are talking about the minimum definition of the word "broadband" here. The idea is to get people who have no internet onto some minimal viable internet. But based on

    • An HD NetFlix stream is 5Mbps. 10Mbps allows two simultaneous HD streams, or one HD stream plus plenty of headroom for other normal activities.

      I'm not sure it makes sense to use old habits as a reference point. Netflix 4k needs around 20Mbps, so by that metric 50Mbps would be about right. (While 4k is not useful on most tvs, it's nice on a big computer monitor from 2 feet away.)

      I would rather that the FCC define it to be 10Mbps, but actually check that this bandwidth is available consistently during pea

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        I'm not sure it makes sense to use old habits as a reference point.

        You got right down to the crux of the problem. What are we trying to define, and how should we define it? We are trying to define "minimum" here for the purpose of providing taxpayer subsidies to telcos.

        We don't want to tie the definition of basic minimum-level "broadband" to the amount of bandwidth required for a premium entertainment system. The household that bought a 4K monitor can afford to get more than the basic service. This is about defining what the minimum level is, so that the FCC can determ

        • You got right down to the crux of the problem. What are we trying to define, and how should we define it? We are trying to define "minimum" here for the purpose of providing taxpayer subsidies to telcos.

          Yes that is the most important question, though I side stepped it. I really don't know the penalties and rewards for the ISPs not doing enough "broadband".

          The household that bought a 4K monitor can afford to get more than the basic service.

          I would assume anyone who could upgrade would be considered co

          • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

            I too assume the ISPs want a lower minimum. I'm just agree that the lower minimum is appropriate. As for the price thing, the FCC sets a price for telephone service. I dunno how broadband internet is handled. Logically, if the government is talking about subsidizing then price fixing usually goes along with that.

    • I always thought the 25Mbps definition was too high as a "minimum definition."

      It's too high as the definition of "minimum required for normal Internet use". It's definitely not too high as a definition of "fast Internet".

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        Agreed! Part of the problem is that the FCC is trying to define "broadband" which is a technical term that is already well defined. It has to do with what frequencies are used to transmit. Unfortunately, as you point out, the term has come to mean "fast internet" which is constantly changing and rather ambiguous.

        • broadband is not a technical term it is a marketing term if it was technical it would be consistent. Instead if various for instance in Germany I had broadband access of 2Mbits down.
    • Agreed. Those of us who live alone and have no interest in 4K video certainly have no use for more than 10Mbps. I've happily downgraded to 6Mbps to save money, and I can't imagine what I could want faster for. And I spend most of my day working online. When discussing broadband as a necessary utility for the modern world, there's no sense in defining broadband as a speed that most people can't even think of a way to use. If you've got 5 kids all watching videos at once... they can suffer 360p for a bit, gas

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        there's no sense in defining broadband as a speed that most people can't even think of a way to use

        That sarcasm only makes sense to someone who doesn't understand what we are discussing. The definition of broadband is not the level at which "most people can't even think of a way to use" it. The definition determines the level at which the FCC will start to funnel taxpayer money to telecom companies so they can upgrade their service. We don't need to divert those subsidies to people who have 5 kids and complain that their video quality isn't good enough. We should rather subsidize internet for rural f

    • by rnturn ( 11092 )

      The reason to make it as high as 25Mbps is because the telcos rarely actually deliver their promised speeds.

      Listen closely to the ads by the big internet providers. "Speeds up to NNN Mbps". Great use of weasel words that most consumers will probably not catch.

    • Its high until you visit another country - even in the most rural parts of Scotland 10 years ago 30 megabits was minimum speed you could buy for a cable provider.

  • Seriously, who decides how fast is fast? If you want uninterrupted 8K Netflix movies, well, perhaps you should pay more for that because plenty of people are happy with 4K and most people only own an HD TV. Pay more for that level of service. A library probably doesn't need to stream video nor does a Starbucks. Of course, the ISPs aren't too honest about their tier performances. The basic service usually doesn't give you enough data per month to allow for nightly streaming movies. They know this too b

  • by will_die ( 586523 ) on Friday January 05, 2018 @10:31AM (#55868857) Homepage
    the author of option piece that other sites are pointing to was forced to admit that what he stated was a a guess and there was no facts behind it.
    This is almost as bad as all those people claiming that with Title 2 now gone they have been having issues with ISP blocking sites and throttling access. When in fact Title 2 rules are still in effect.
  • Those and a land line may be what passes for "broadband" once Idjit Pai finishes dismantling everything the FCC has previously done.

The road to hell is paved with NAND gates. -- J. Gooding

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