The FCC’s announcement of a new definition of broadband has quickly become the topic of conversation. MCTV president Bob Gessner explains the complexities of the issue:
First, it is important to understand that the definition of broadband established by the FCC is largely a political tool. The new definition will be used by the FCC and White House to argue that there is not enough competition. That’s because most homes (74.7%) can choose from at least two broadband providers under the 4/1 standard, but only 25.3% would have two or more providers under 25/3. You can read more about the issue of changing the definition of broadband.
The definition of “broadband” also is used to determine the extent to which people are considered to “lack access” to broadband. That means they could not subscribe to that level of service from any provider. They may have access to other levels of service, but if there is no option that meets the FCC’s definition, the area is considered to “lack access” to broadband.
If you read the FCC’s release, you will see that it consistently uses this term and makes comparisons between the old and new definitions. For example, under the former 4/1 definition set in 2010, only 6.3% “lack access.” That doesn’t mean the other 93.7 percent are using broadband, but they could buy it from at least one wired Internet provider if they desire. Under the new 25/3 definition, 19.4% would “lack access.”
So, why is that important? Well, the FCC and other government agencies use those numbers to determine eligibility for federal funds. Setting a higher speed as the definition means more rural areas and tribal lands are considered to lack access. That lack of access is the basis by which companies receive federal funds, either grants for the construction of new infrastructure or subsidies for so-called “high cost” areas. It sounds good, but none of those dollars will come here so those will be your tax dollars being sent to another community.
Beyond that, the FCC’s new definition is not a mandate that all providers increase existing services to those levels or begin to offer service at that level. The FCC does not have that authority. Thus, the new definition serves as inspiration; a suggestion of where the FCC thinks bandwidth needs are headed. Clearly, the FCC’s action does not require that all consumers purchase that level of service or that MCTV make 25/3 the minimum service level.
MCTV offers a wide variety of service options so consumers can choose the level of service and price point that best serves their needs. MCTV already has two levels of service that are close to the new definition of broadband. One is 20/1.5. This clearly exceeded the old definition. It was created years ago and has been upgraded several times. We have no immediate plans to change this service package.
The other is a new service with a download speed of 50 Mbps and an upload speed of 2.5 Mbps. We created this service before the FCC’s new definition. We created this because there is a demand for higher speeds, not because the FCC set a new, arbitrary definition.
Finally, it is important to point out that advertised speeds have very little value. That’s because all Internet speeds are considered “best efforts.” It is possible to achieve those speeds but there is no guarantee that a user will always have that level of service. Many providers advertise very high speeds but are unable to deliver during peak hours. MCTV focuses on creating service packages that are sustainable throughout the day and consistently deliver the advertised speed.