Sen. Schumer: FCC has decided not to lower broadband threshold

Local News

UNITED STATES (WROC) – Sen. Chuck Schumer says, after pressure from his office, the FCC is reversing plans to lower the standard for high speed broadband internet.

In a Tuesday morning news release, Schumer said, “This was an ill-conceived plan from the start which would have limited high-speed broadband in Upstate New York. When it comes to providing high-speed internet access to a place like Upstate New York, we should be building up, not lowering our standards and defining access down.”

The FCC proposal would have dropped the minimum benchmark for internet speeds to be considered broadband. The move would have followed a change in 2015 that increased that benchmark from 4 Mbps download/1Mbps upload to 25 Mpbs download/3 Mbps upload.

The FCC wanted to drop speeds to 10 Mbps download with 1 Mbps upload — which would match wireless speeds.

Schumer’s letter to the FCC

Dear Chairman Pai and Commissioners Clyburn, O’Rielly, Carr and Rosenworcel:

I write today to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject its current proposal to downgrade the minimum benchmark definition of internet service and to treat mobile broadband as a stand-in for fixed home internet. It is my concern that pushing this standard would only “define access down” and reduce connectivity quality for New Yorkers and the rest of the nation. 

As you know, each year the FCC evaluates national broadband deployment standards to ensure internet service providers (ISPs) are equally distributing quality broadband. In 2015, the FCC established a new definition of broadband, increasing the access requirement from 4Mbps minimum download speed, 1Mbps upload speed, to 25Mbps/3Mbps, excluding mobile service, in order to serve the 55 million Americans without high-speed internet at those speeds. This decision was an attempt to raise the bar for the quality of internet being deployed and set aspirational goals aimed at increasing broadband access for millions of Americans. 

The FCC’s recent Notice of Inquiry (NOI) would scale back the progress made by the 2015 decision by enabling ISPs to offer consumers slower broadband. In considering whether mobile broadband access could serve as a viable alternative to home broadband, the NOI would define the U.S. broadband standard as 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload for mobile, less than half the current 25Mbps/3Mbps standard for home broadband. The FCC would consider areas covered by either the lower mobile standard or fixed service as “served.” 

As anyone who has a cell phone knows, most mobile coverage of today could never serve as a comparable substitute to consistent home internet. Not only does today’s mobile internet typically vary in speed, the quality is not nearly reliable enough to be considered an adequate and sufficient alternative, especially if held to the low standard of 10Mbps/1Mbps. Furthermore, under this new proposal there would be even less of an incentive for ISPs to improve existing fixed home internet service, buildout new broadband infrastructure, or even improve mobile broadband quality for the thousands of rural and low-income communities who lack sufficient access currently – further increasing the digital divide. Lastly, the new definition could have an enormous impact on the funding available for those in my home state of New York seeking to expand broadband networks into uncovered areas. 

For many households across the nation, access to robust, affordable broadband service is their livelihood. Instead of pushing policies that could weaken the national standard for this critical resource, we should be raising the bar for service quality and expanding coverage. I urge the Commission to reconsider this proposal and take every step possible to ensure all Americans stay connected. 

Charles E. Schumer

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