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Senators Push For 100Mbps As Standard Speed For Broadband

Jeff Kotuby

A group of four U.S. senators wrote a letter calling on the FCC and the Biden administration to establish 100Mbps upstream/downstream as the “21st century definition of high-speed broadband.” Currently, the standard sits at 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream.

The bipartisan letter, co-authored by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), called on federal agencies to update broadband speeds to reflect modern uses, no doubt fueled by the way the COVID-19 pandemic changed the country’s internet habits. The senators recommend that federal dollars be put towards networks capable of “modern and emerging uses, like two-way videoconferencing, telehealth, remote learning, health IoT, and smart grid applications,” the senators said.

100Mbps upload speeds would be much higher than any cable company offers today. While many, like Comcast and Charter, offer 1GB download speeds, their upload speeds cap out at ~35 Mbps — a far cry from the proposed 100. In comparison, leading fiber-optic internet providers Verizon Fios and AT&T Fiber can boast about offering close to 1GB in both upload and download. To ensure metro areas have access to 100Mbps upload and download speeds would be a massive undertaking, let alone trying to ensure rural areas in the middle of the U.S. have access to those speeds, where reliable networks are much harder to come by.

“In the years ahead, emerging technologies…will all require broadband networks capable of delivering much faster speeds, lower latency, and higher reliability than those now codified by various federal agencies,” wrote the senators. “We must learn from our experience during the pandemic and raise federal standards for new broadband service to require low latency, high reliability, and speeds that meet our expected 21st century needs.”

The letter was sent to acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, as well as Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese. Rosenworcel has already advocated for higher up/down standards in the past and agrees that the current standard is dated, which could be a good sign for the future.

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