Continuing its push to deliver high-speed Internet to Americans, the FCC has redefined what constitutes a "broadband" connection. For more than a decade, download rates of 200Kb/s or better qualified as a broadband service, but that benchmark has been substantially increased to 4Mb/s downstream and 1Mb/s upstream. The commission believes those are minimum speeds essential for using today's "video-rich broadband applications and services, while retaining sufficient capacity for basic web browsing and email."

It's estimated between 14 and 24 million people across 39 US states (4.5% to 8% of the nation's population) lack access to high-speed Internet - and that's not about to change overnight, the FCC said in a recent broadband deployment report (PDF). Most of those citizens reside in "expensive-to-serve areas with low population density," and they will continue to be unserved without substantial reforms to the agency's universal service programs.

The FCC also said that many Americans only have the choice between one and three Internet providers because large operators have conspired to squash smaller competitors. Telecom companies and backers refuted the agency's findings, labeling the report inaccurate and confusing.