The Federal Communications Commission today voted to change the definition of broadband internet in the United States. This change, passed by FCC commissioners by a 3-2 vote, raises the minimum download speeds for broadband from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps and minimum upload speeds from 1 Mbps to 3 Mbps. If the speeds they provide don’t reach this standard then internet service providers cannot call those connections “broadband.”

Interestingly this new definition of broadband internet triples the number of households in the country that doesn’t have access to broadband. As it stands only 6.3 percent of the households don’t have access to broadband under the previous 4-1 threshold while an additional 13.1 percent don’t have access under the new 25-3 threshold.

Cable providers aren’t too happy with this rather bold move by the Federal Communications Commission. Services backed by fiber optic and cable can reach these standards easily but there’s a problem for DSL services, which rely on telephone lines, and usually aren’t capable of reaching the new threshold.

An important distinction has to be made here. FCC has only changed broadband’s definition. This doesn’t force ISPs to deliver 25 Mbps speeds. ISPs will simply not be able to brand their services as “broadband internet” if they don’t meet these standards.

FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler voiced his support for this new standard saying that “When 80 percent of Americans can access 25-3, that’s a standard. We have a problem that 20 percent can’t. We have a responsibility to that 20 percent.”

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