If you have up to 25Mbps broadband speeds you no longer have broadband

It's official: if you're not getting three-digit download speeds, you're not getting proper broadband

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It's official: some of the broadband services available to you aren't really broadband. So some of those Superfast Broadband, Fibre 2, Super Fibre and Stream services wouldn't be considered standard broadband services in the US and wouldn't be able to be marketed as such.

That's not me talking. That's the US Federal Communications Commission. This week, the FCC changed its official definition of broadband. The previous definition, which was 25Mbps download speeds and 3Mbps upload speeds, has been in place since 2015. But now it's been updated, and broadband now means download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and upload speeds of 20Mbps.

Perhaps they could have a word with the UK government. Since 2018 it's stated that the minimum speed needed by the average UK household is 10Mbps with an upload speed of 1Mbps. That's well below the minimum spec for Netflix Premium.

And of course, speed isn't the only measure of broadband's usefulness. There's lag and latency and the actual cost too. And for much of the US, the biggest issue isn't speed but availability. The FCC notes that nearly 28% of Americans don't have access to decent connectivity.

Why official definitions are important

This isn't just a paperwork exercise. In the US, as in the UK, broadband speeds are used to create maps of coverage around the country to identify the broadband haves and the broadband have nots. So areas that fall below the stated definition may be earmarked for extra funding, or have broadband providers incentivised to improve their connectivity.

In this particular case, The Verge reports, the definition is reflecting what's going on in the wider world: the 100Mbps figure is what's being set out in requirements for federal and state grants across the continent.

The FCC doesn't have the power to make ISPs offer faster connections. But it can and will affect the funding that's available to internet firms providing broadband by limiting the money that's going to sub-par connections. And its new definition has another big effect: it limits the claims that broadband companies are able to make in their advertising, so according to Engadget the FCC "can prevent them from marketing their services as 'broadband' internet if they don't meet these thresholds."

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).