Coming as a surprise to no one who uses the Internet, the US Government Accountability Office reports that broadband at 25 Mbps down and 3 up is likely too slow for business…
In a 2021 report, GAO found that some small businesses lack access to broadband, but may benefit from federal programs that fund deployment in rural areas. A nationally representative survey by Amazon and the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center found approximately 20 percent of rural small businesses were not using broadband, with about 5 percent using a dial up connection. Small businesses likely benefit from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Utilities Service’s (RUS) funding to expand broadband deployment. For example, at the time of the 2021 report, FCC had awarded $19.7 billion since 2014 through components of its high-cost programs, and estimated it had served 9.1 million business and residence locations. Both FCC and USDA have also helped increase broadband speeds in rural areas. For example, USDA’s rural broadband deployment program, ReConnect, is mostly funding projects that propose to build fiber, which is generally associated with the fastest speeds available.
Much of the literature GAO reviewed suggests that FCC’s current broadband minimum benchmark speeds—25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloading and 3 Mbps for uploading—are likely too slow to meet many small business speed needs. For example, a 2019 USDA report stated that as technology advances and volumes of data needed to manage agriculture production grow, speeds above of 25/3 Mbps will likely be needed. In July 2022, the FCC Chairwoman announced a proposal to increase the benchmark to 100 Mbps for download and 20 Mbps for upload.
Small Business Administration (SBA) officials told GAO that their agency supports broadband access for small businesses, especially for those in rural areas, through partnerships with organizations and federal agencies. For example, SBA partners with national organizations that offer technical assistance and training to small businesses on a variety of topics, including how to use broadband to support their business.
I recognize that it’s important to do the research to provide a point, but it feels like they should be looking at 100/20 or 100/100 not 25/3. Often the research impacts funding and funding is more forward-looking than 25/3.