Last week the FCC asked for input from the public on the definition of broadband. (You can see some immediate response from the FCC blogland readers, which are interesting.) Various institutions are chiming in too.
In some ways I feel like I could test out of reading a lot of comments after watching the Minnesota Ultra High Speed Broadband Task Force debate this in the last few months. The issues I’m reading about from national guys are the same as I’ve heard locally.
You can find a good survey of responses on the Benton Foundation site. I thought I’d comment on some of the ones that struck me.
Thanks to Mary Mehsikomer at NW-LINKS for the heads up on the comments from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA). As with the MN Broadband Task Force, the NATOA talks about an aspirational speed versus minimum speed. They refer to John Chambers (CEO of Cisco) with a prediction of network traffic annual growth at speeds of 300-500 percent over the next 7 years. And while they do mention speeds they point out that the metric for speed should be applications and the definition should be revisited annually.
They promote symmetry but (again like the Task Force) add a caveat that says “have symmetrical connections or at least robust upstream speeds to facilitate interactivty.”
Like many other folks making comments, they add that speeds should be measured at the user end – not based on advertised or theoretical speeds.
They also talk about quality of service. I had a friend in Blaine who was cursing lack of quality yesterday. She missed a day of work due to outages.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association is happy with the current definition – 768 kbps down and 200 kbps up. They point out that the change that the FCC made last year has already been a headache for folks needing to change their systems. Also maps are already been creating with the old definition in mind – changing the rules now will be more headaches.
AT&T, Verizon and Comcast
According to an article by John Poirier, the big providers are campaigning for lower speeds to define broadband. They point out that much of what consumers want to do online (email and web browsing) does not require higher speeds. Also cost is an issue with consumers and the providers can offer lower speeds more affordably.
The CTIA (Wireless Association) reminds the FCC of “value of mobile wireless broadband to consumers.” The point out wireless options offer mobility that is important to consumers and as such the FCC needs to find a way to fit wireless into the broadband definition.
So there’s a smattering of the advice from the public. It will be very interesting to see what gets done with it. As an aside, school is not yet in session in St Paul. So over lunch my 10-year-old asked what I was doing. I tried to explain about broadband and how with lower speeds you could check email or browse the web but not download Netflix. So she asked, “Could you use Skype?” Not really. “Could you watch TV?” Not really. “Could you upload video?” Not really. So she wanted to know why you’d have the Internet if you couldn’t do the fun stuff.
Maybe we need to ask our kids to define the applications that we need and build the broadband definition around that.