FCC Expands Rural Broadband Speeds

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Despite arguments from large providers like AT&T and Verizon, the Federal Communications Commission is redefining broadband requirements for rural areas.

Under the new regulations, providers receiving funding under the FCC’s “Connect America” program must provide speeds of at least 10Mbps download and 1Mbps. The previous requirement was 4Mbps/1Mbps.

The move is part of a program that aims to provide broadband access to all areas of the country, including rural areas that had previous difficulty gaining access to the same technologies provided to urban centers.

“Congress directed the FCC to make available in rural areas communications services that are reasonably comparable to those in urban areas. Increasing the Connect America speed requirement means that rural Americans, like urban Americans, can tap the benefits provided by broadband through faster web downloads, improved video streaming, and service capable of supporting multiple users in a household,” the official FCC order states.

“According to recent data, 99% of Americans living in urban areas have access to fixed broadband speeds of 10/1, which can accommodate more modern applications and uses. Moreover, the vast majority of urban households are able to subscribe to even faster service.”

Updated regulations had been opposed by AT&T, Verizon, and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. AT&T had previously filed arguments against the increased speeds.

“Given the pace at which the industry is investing in advanced capabilities, there is no present need to redefine “advanced” capabilities,” the filing notes.

The order only applies to those providers receiving funding through the “Connect America” fund, which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says in a blog post is poised to invest more than $20 billion over the next five years. The order aims to expand service to over five million Americans.

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