Bill Makes 25 Mbps/3 Mbps Standard for All Broadband Subsidies

Senate Commerce Committee members Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) are introducing a bill that would standardize the definition of high-speed fixed broadband in government subsidy programs. 

The Broadband Parity Act would "bring all federal broadband programs to the current definition of what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines as high-speed internet (currently 25 [Mbps downstream]/3 {Mbps upstream]). 

In its (most recent) 2019 Broadband Deployment report, the FCC said: "The number of Americans lacking access to a terrestrial fixed broadband connection meeting the FCC’s benchmark of at least 25 Mbps/3 Mbps has dropped from 26.1 million Americans at the end of 2016 to 21.3 million Americans at the end of 2017, a decrease of more than 18%." 

Related: FCC Releases Broadband Speed Report 

The money in any broadband subsidy program--there are over 20 such programs across various agencies, the FCC and Department of Agricultural most notably--would be contingent on providing that 25/3 service to "ensure that all communities and entities receiving federal broadband support have access to internet service that is actually at broadband speeds." 

They point out that while some areas are defined as "served" when they have 25/3, others can meet that threshold at only 10/1. "The discrepancy in bandwidth speeds means that the federal government is often investing in inadequate broadband services," Capito and Rosen said. 

"The bipartisan Capito-Rosen bill will remove inconsistencies in service and improve broadband access across the country, which is an essential step toward all Americans having equal access to healthcare, education, and economic opportunity," they added. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.