updated 04:35 pm EDT, Wed March 19, 2008
FCC ups 'broadband' bar
The Federal Communications Commission has voted to change how broadband access in the US is measured, say reports. The old system was been criticized by various parties as distorted, using outdated and overly generous criteria; "high speed" was considered to be 200Kbps or faster, and access was sometimes considered to be widespread in ZIP codes where only one connection was present. Because this produced bad data, the FCC argues that it hindered any serious federal broadband policies, as well as how much investment would be made into infrastructure, whether public or private.
"When companies and investors put money into e-commerce or voice-over Internet protocol or Internet video," says Commissioner Michael Copps, "they need to know what kind of broadband infrastructure America actually has."
Many specifics of the FCC's changes have yet to be published, but some details are already known. "Basic broadband" now consists of download speeds between 768Kbps and 1.5Mbps, instead of 200Kbps; both upload and download speeds must be reported, and instead of two levels of access ratings, there are now five. ISPs must reveal the number of subscribers in each census tract, and may eventually be required to show how much they charge.
In another matter, Reuters notes that the FCC has voted to ban exclusive deals between phone companies and apartment complex owners, voiding any already in place. These deals are said to hurt market competition, at least in part because they stop people from choosing rival "triple-play" packages that combine voice, TV and Internet service. This echoes a similar undoing of exclusive deals between apartments and cable companies.