6 Senators to FCC: Broadband Should Stay in 2010

If it wasn’t painfully clear before that many lawmakers in Congress are helpless and confused when it comes to broadband internet, this latest letter – sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler – should make it abundantly clear.

What’s Good Enough for One Netflix Stream is Good Enough for Everyone

The letter, written to express concern about the FCC’s recent increase in the minimum broadband speeds from 4 Mbps down/1 Mbps up to 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up, makes the claim that:

…We are aware of few applications that require download speeds of 25 Mbps. Netflix, for example, recommends a download speed of 5 Mbps to receive high-definition streaming video, and Amazon recommends a speed of 3.5 Mbps.

See the problem? Nowhere in this statement do they mention the fact that a single broadband connection often runs 2 or more streaming connections at one time. Also not mentioned are things like online games, people working from home,  and the increasing number and size of digital downloads for things like computer applications, games, movies, and music.

It’s also worth noting that Netflix recommends 25 Mbps for “Ultra-HD” (4k) content.

 Nobody Wants Faster Internet!

The next sentence:

In addition, according to the FCC’s own data, the majority of Americans who can purchase 25 Mbps service choose not to.

Nice bob and weave! Implying that because a majority of Americans have chosen not to purchase this higher tier of service, it should not be considered the minimum broadband speed. The very first sentence of the letter notes that “broadband” is – to the FCC – synonymous with “advanced telecommunications capability”. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that not everyone needs these advanced capabilities and speeds, but if you accept the FCC’s definition then this increase in minimum standards makes perfect sense.

It’s worth noting that before 2010, broadband speed was defined as at least 200 kpbs down/200 kpbs up. While people (er, the cable companies and some badly misguided lawmakers) are up in arms over this 4x increase from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps, note that 4 Mbps = 4,000 kpbs. That means that in 2010 the minimum broadband speed jumped 20x! Remember, though, that the 4 Mbps standard was adopted in 2010 – the year that Netflix streaming became available on the iPad and iPhone and streaming and DVD rentals were still bundled together.

Times change and technology (and legislation regarding technology) should move forward.

It’s Bad for Business!

Also, hilariously, the letter says that increasing this broadband benchmark would:

…The use of this benchmark discourages broadband providers from offering speeds at or above the benchmark…

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll just take a look over at TimeWarnerCable.com…

broadband speed
A chart of available Time Warner Internet Plans. Seems like it IS possible to do more than the bare minimum!


Looks like Time Warner hasn’t been dissuaded from offering five packages above the 4 Mbps minimum – and two are even above the new 25 Mbps minimum.

Additional anecdotal evidence: when (if?) Google Fiber comes to Louisville, you’d better believe we’re jumping ship from TWC the minute that Google opens up registrations. We currently have 15 Mbps/1 Mpbs, and while that is somewhat limiting, the big reason we haven’t increased our internet bandwidth is financial – TWC simply charges too much, because they can. Looking at prices for Google Fiber, it would cost us about $15/month to increase our internet download speed 66x! If we put that same $15 toward TWC, we’d get an increase in download speed of about 1.3x.

The letter was signed by the following six senators:

  • Steve Daines (R-MT)
  • Roger Wicker (R-MS)
  • Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  • Ron Johnson (R-NE)
  • Cory Gardner (R-CO)
  • Deb Fischer (R-WI)