Republican Senators Think You Don’t Need Faster Broadband

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Broadband in the United States still lags behind similar service in other industrialized countries, so Congress made broadband expansion a national priority, and it offers subsidies, mostly in rural areas, to help providers expand their offerings,’ writes Bill Snyder. And that’s where an effort by the big ISPs and a group of senators to change the definition of broadband comes in.

Of course, the ISPs want the threshold to be as low as possible so it’s easier for them to qualify for government subsidies. In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, dated January 21, 2016, the senators called the current broadband benchmark of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream ‘arbitrary’ and said that users don’t need that kind of speed anyway.

The six Republican senators who signed the letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler say most users don’t need fast broadband Internet as it’s now defined. From that letter:

“Looking at the market for broadband applications, 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 as speed of 3.5 Mbps.”

The senators’ claims are accurate. However, they mistakenly assume consumers don’t simultaneously connect multiple devices to the Internet. And when newer video formats such as 4K become more common, even single devices will need additional bandwidth. The ISPs know this, of course, and they frequently tout the benefits of faster — and more expensive — connectivity.

Republican Senators:

  • Steve Daines – Montana
  • Roger Wicker – Mississippi
  • Roy Blunt – Montana
  • Deb Fischer –  Nebraska
  • Ron Johnson – Wisconsin
  • Cory Gardner – Colorado