The chairman of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to redefine “broadband” Internet as a download speed of at least 100 megabits per second (or Mbps) and upload speeds of 20 Mbps.
A change in the current seven-year-old broadband standard would almost certainly encourage network companies to upgrade equipment to meet the new benchmark. And it would increase the download and upload capacity of data over the internet – a major upgrade for remote and hybrid workers, whose ranks have increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, broadband is defined as networks that offer a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds.
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel suggested raising the standard to 100 Mbps/20 Mbps Friday, arguing that the old metric is “outdated.”
“The needs of Internet users long ago surpassed the FCC’s 25/3 speed measurement, especially during a global health pandemic that shifted so much of life online,” Rosenworcel wrote in her statement. notification of the change. “Not only is the 25/3 measure behind the times, it is damaging because it masks the extent to which low-income neighborhoods and rural communities are being left behind and left offline.”
In the US, the average fixed broadband speed is 134 Mbps/75 Mbps, according to network research agency Ookla. Rosenworcel’s proposal included the concept of an even higher “national target of 1Gbps/500Mbps for the future”.
“The future of business will increasingly be to reach consumers electronically,” said Jack Gold, chief analyst at research firm J. Gold Associates. “Having a uniform minimum speed across the country is beneficial for companies that can then reach a wide audience with their services.”
In addition, as 5G mobile networks are rolled out around the world and deployed in more remote locations, the prospect for ultra-fast connections of 100 Mbps and above is growing. “So establishing a minimum may not be as hard to achieve as some might expect,” Gold noted.
At the end of 2021, Cisco surveyed 60,000 employees in 30 countries. Responses indicated that remote and hybrid work efforts were undermined by poor broadband connectivity.
The research results, published in February as part of Cisco’s Broadband Indexshowed that 75% of respondents believe that the success of hybrid work depends on the quality and availability of the internet.
Nearly eight in ten employees (78%) said the reliability and quality of broadband connections is important. The reliance on strong internet access was also underlined by the fact that 84% of respondents actively use broadband at home, four hours or more per day.
Nearly six in ten respondents (58%) said they were unable to access critical services such as online medical appointments, online education, social care and utilities during the lockdown due to an unreliable broadband connection.
“Many telecommuters need more than a basic level of connectivity to make a living,” Cisco said in a statement. “To meet the demands of their broadband connection, nearly half of respondents (43%) plan to upgrade their Internet service in the next 12 months.”
Jason Blackwell, research director for Consumer Multiplay and SMB Services at IDC, said the latest call to increase minimum broadband requirements is aimed at minimizing the digital divide and forcing Internet service providers to deliver a better-performing network to more locations.
“We still have many locations in the US that are served by only a single provider, and often only by DSL, which can hardly qualify as broadband even under its current definition,” Blackwell said. “By bringing more robust broadband to these areas with no and insufficient coverage, connectivity to education and business opportunities can be created, bringing economic benefits. This will also enable more people to look for work remotely and open up the employment pool for companies to access the most qualified people wherever they are.”
One problem is that the speed level is not the same everywhere in the country. In many urban and suburban areas, users can already achieve speeds of at least 100 Mbps or even 1 Gigabit – if they are willing to pay for it. But in much more remote or low-income areas, less bandwidth is available due to underinvestment in connectivity in general.
“Some people still need to use DSL, for example, which is pretty slow,” Gold said. “So anything the government can do to create a minimum requirement that allows the user to take advantage of all the new video and graphics features that are now common on the web is about equal access.
“That certainly affects the ability to work remotely from anywhere and can help remote communities expand their workforces without people having to relocate, or move people to more remote and/or smaller towns/municipalities if they would like that. like without missing out on job opportunities,” Gold added.
Telemedicine, which is critical to underserved communities, also needs a reasonable amount of bandwidth to provide services.
To a large extent, the government is already funding some of the broadband infrastructure upgrades through taxes on broadband connections, Gold noted — a practice that has been going on for years.
“The network improvements are happening at the Internet service providers. Cable operators are either upgrading to DOCSIS 3.1 and eventually DOCSIS 4.0, or they are deploying fiber deeper into the network,” Blackwell said. Telcos are replacing copper networks for DSL with fiber to achieve higher network speeds. The government supports many of these projects through a number of different programs, such as [Rural Digital Opportunity Fund] and the infrastructure bill.”
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