Is Speed Enough? Examining the Definition of Broadband and Its Implications for Public Policy
20 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2021
Date Written: August 3, 2021
The benefits of broadband to a post-pandemic modern society are increasingly clear. Policy makers are responding by significantly increasing universal service funds focused on increasing the availability of broadband to underserved and unserved areas. In the push to deploy more broadband and eliminate the Digital Divide, one obvious, but often overlooked, element of the policy discussion is the definition of the term “broadband” that determines the core technical characteristics of the broadband services built via government subsidies and support. This paper examines the approach taken by the FCC to develop and maintain its Definition of Broadband by performing a historical analysis of the series of section 706 inquiries that established the current definition of 25 Mbps in the downstream and 3 Mbps in the upstream directions. Based upon this analysis, the paper then describes a set of principles to guide policy makers and regulatory processes developing or updating the Definition of Broadband in the future. The paper provides a useful contribution for policy makers considering how to best target resources to connect all segments of society to the Internet by describing the key role that the Definition of Broadband plays in these deliberations. While this paper does not recommend any specific changes to the current Definition of Broadband, it does recommend a more robust strategic planning approach for developing the nation’s broadband strategy as this technology emerges as critical infrastructure for modern society.
Keywords: definition of broadband, broadband policy, broadband availability, broadband technology
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