The Federal Communications Commission is considering a change in the technical definition of the term broadband, increasing the threshold from its current level of 4 megabits per second to somewhere between 10 Mbps to 25 Mbps.
According to the Washington Post, the FCC soon expects to solicit public comment on whether broadband should be redefined, as the popularity of music and video streaming services proliferates, and new data-intensive technologies, such as 4K video resolution, are emerging.
As the Post notes, an HD-quality Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) stream requires an Internet speed of about 5 Mbps, and the typical U.S. home now regularly features multiple users streaming content on multiple devices simultaneously.
The inquiry, which was circulated internally within the FCC on Friday, would also cover upload speeds, moving the current benchmark of 1 Mbps to 2.9 Mbps.
An increase in the threshold would statistically increase the number of U.S. residents who lack broadband--measured at 6 percent in 2012. A higher standard would also significantly impact policy debates and how the FCC regulates Internet service providers. With the greater benchmark, the commission could argue more stridently that ISPs aren't offering consumers a true broadband experience.
In addition to asking the public whether the broadband threshold should be adjusted to account for current consumer usage habits, the inquiry will also seek to determine whether a tiered set of definitions should be adopted to account for varying Internet speeds in different regions and different times of the day.
The FCC last changed its definition of broadband in 2010.
FCC: Broadband providers need to step up rollouts
Google joins Netflix in the ISP rating game, says its report is more comprehensive
EU reaches 'broadband for all' target, but challenges remain
Rysavy: How will 5G compare to fiber, cable or DSL?