FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said this week that she will begin an inquiry into sharply increasing the agency’s definition of what qualifies as a “broadband” service – with a focus on boosting service speeds for “fixed” broadband services.

Fixed broadband services typically include those delivered through wire-based infrastructure including cable lines, phone lines, and similar means.  Fixed service does not typically include purely mobile services like those used for smartphones.

Rosenworcel said on July 25 that she shared with her fellow FCC commissioners an updated notice of inquiry (NOI) “that would kick off the agency’s evaluation of the state of broadband across the country,” an exercise that the FCC periodically performs as required by Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act.

According to her statement, the NOI proposes to increase “the national fixed broadband standard to 100 megabits per second for download and 20 megabits per second for upload.”

Currently, the FCC’s standard for fixed broadband service is 25 megabits per second for download, and 3 megabits per second for upload. That standard was set in 2015.

The NOI, the chairwoman’s statement says, “discusses a range of evidence supporting” the proposed high broadband speed standard, “including the requirements for new networks funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

Looking further down the road, the NOI also proposes “for the future” a “separate national goal” for broadband service speed of 1,000 megabits per second download, and 500 megabits per second upload.

More broadly in the Section 706 NOI, the FCC said Rosenworcel “proposes that the Commission consider several crucial characteristics of broadband deployment, including affordability, adoption, availability, and equitable access, when determining whether broadband is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to ‘all Americans.’”

“In today’s world, everyone needs access to affordable, high-speed internet, no exceptions,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “It’s time to connect everyone, everywhere. Anything short of 100% is just not good enough.”

Notices of inquiry are typically employed at the FCC as a preliminary step to gather information and feedback, and can serve as the precursor to additional rulemaking proceedings. Through its Section 706 NOI, and FCC eventually will pronounce its findings on whether broadband service is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk SLG's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.