How far broadband has penetrated in the U.S. seems to be a bone of contention for many, and it is about to become moreso. The Telecommunications Subcommittee in the U.S. House is proposing that the FCC changes what they qualify as broadband, which is currently considering any link 200kbps and higher to qualify. Under the proposal, to qualify as a broadband connection it will need to provide at least 2mbps downstream. While this is unlikely to have any impact on cable providers, it may put many DSL providers and WISPS on the spot, whom offer still offer lines from 256k to 1.5meg.
Is a reclassification such a bad thing, however? The standards in place now are nearly a decade old, and do not reflect the rapid expansion of broadband ISPs. With the U.S. already looking like it lags behind many other nations for speeds and availability, this may be incentive enough to make ISPs go that extra mile. Not all are happy with this proposal, saying more or less that “speed is relative”:
Those from the industries that provide Internet connectivity were less thrilled about the approach, arguing that 768Kbps DSL lines in rural areas might not be speedy today but still remained a massive improvement over dial-up speeds and should still be counted. One proposal, made by several speakers, was summed up well by Steve Largent of the CTIA, which represents wireless telephone companies. He suggested that the FCC keep the current threshold at 200Kbps but provide more granularity so that users can see exactly which speed tiers are available in their neighborhoods.
And indeed they may be right. Wireless technologies have difficulty competing with cable for speed, and are often looking to simply offer service beyond that in dialup in areas that may not see any cable or DSL availability for years, if ever. The FCC is considering the proposal, and has agreed to look into their data collection methods, but they have no official plan yet.