Broadband speed test

The FCC last set its definition of broadband as 4Mbps downstream, and 1Mbps upstream. That was fine for 2010, but it's arguably outdated in 2014 -- you can't reliably stream HD video or host high-quality video chats on that kind of connection. The agency is clearly aware that it needs to modernize, as it's drafting a proposal that would increase the baseline to at least 10Mbps down and 2.9Mbps up. It may also explore tiered definitions that vary based on regions or even times of day. Broadband in a gigabit-class city like Austin may get tougher standards than rural Wyoming, for example.

A higher baseline could help Americans by expanding the FCC's push for greater broadband adoption. The regulator might pressure internet providers into upgrading services that are borderline acceptable today, and it could insist on better technology for regions getting their first taste of broadband speeds. HD-friendly internet service could eventually become the norm. However, it won't be surprising if the agency faces resistance from carriers -- they've historically been reluctant to upgrade their networks unless there's a competitive threat, and there are quite a few places where their existing performance falls short.