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Cable giants don't like the FCC's push to redefine 'broadband'

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You may like the FCC's proposal to upgrade the legal definition of broadband, but your internet provider probably doesn't. The industry's National Cable & Telecommunications Association has sent a letter to the FCC claiming that there's no real justification for bumping the legal definition of "broadband" to 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps up. The lobbying group claims that advocates' arguments in favor of a speed-up "dramatically exaggerate" how much performance people typically need. Netflix may say that 25Mbps is necessary for 4K video streaming, for example, but the NCTA claims that only a "tiny fraction" of people use their service that way. The Association also wants to make sure that any change in broadband definitions won't have "regulatory significance" that makes telecoms step up their game.

While it's true that 4K video, cloud backups and other high-bandwidth services aren't hugely popular right now, the filing largely ignores the point of the FCC's proposal. The regulator wants a higher threshold in part to anticipate demand, not to simply accommodate what's already there. When it backs broadband deployments, particularly for rural areas and schools, it wants to know that the technology people get will be useful for years to come.

And of course, the NCTA has a vested interest in keeping the definition at the pokey 4Mbps down and 1Mbps up you see today. The FCC's proposal wouldn't force providers to upgrade all their offerings, but it would make the companies look bad (17 percent of Americans can't reach 25Mbps) and push them to offer more than rudimentary access in FCC-backed rollouts. They don't want to spend money upgrading their networks if they can avoid it, even if many would agree that their service is sorely in need of a tune-up.

[Image credit: Jupiterimages]

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