What is High-Speed Internet as Defined by the FCC?

High-speed Internet used to mean a 56k modem. Things change. Today, there may be a broader spectrum of "high-speed Internet" than ever before, with consumer speeds reaching 1 Gigabit in some areas. High-speed Internet is going to keep changing, but FCC standards tend to provide an excellent baseline regarding what can currently be defined as a high-speed connection.

What's the Current Speed Defined by the FCC?

Until 2015, high-speed was defined as 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. That's actually pretty slow. While it's suitable for browsing the web, most people would have found 4 Mbps a pretty slow speed. And until 2010, high-speed Internet was actually anything above 200 Kbps. 

Today, the FCC defines high-speed as 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. This is more accurate, but it's still lagging a little behind the industry standards. The average Internet speed in the United States is currently 93.98 Mbps, with the global average speed at 46.25 Mbps. 

Internet is getting faster in leaps and bounds, so it makes sense that the FCC would lag behind. Further, 25 Mbps is more than suitable for most tasks, even gaming.

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What Does the FCC High-Speed Internet Definition Mean?

If the FCC definition of high-speed Internet doesn't necessarily feel fast, then why is the definition valuable? The definition is important for advertising purposes. A service can't call itself "high-speed" if it doesn't meet the standards for high-speed.

This also means that areas that don't have access to 25 Mbps speeds can no longer be called "high-speed coverage" areas or areas covered by "broadband."

That being said, because the speed is lagging behind actual industry standards, it also means that "high-speed" Internet might not necessarily be high-speed. Consumers looking for Internet service will need to look at the actual numbers.

FCC's High-Speed Internet Standards Provide a Benchmark

Since the FCC's high-speed Internet standards aren't generally meaningful for consumers looking for Internet, they're generally used for benchmarks and demographics. FCC's high-speed Internet standards can easily reveal where broadband Internet is not being properly deployed, including zones where Internet access is notably slow.

If prior patterns hold up, it's possible that these Internet standards may be updated within the next few years, as the standards have accelerated. Previously, the standards were updated in 1996, 2010, and then in 2015. With many services rolling out fiber connectivity now, even faster Internet may be right around the corner.

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FCC's Broadband Consumer Guide

In addition to high-speed Internet definitions, the FCC also provides a general consumer guide for those who are looking for high-speed Internet. In it, the FCC advises consumers to:

  • Consider how many people in their household will be using the Internet. The FCC's general recommendations and standards for high-speed Internet are calculated based on the usage of one person, but multiple people will slow down the Internet speed.
  • Look at the type of Internet connectivity the household needs. Some households stream a great deal of video, while others just use social media. Those who use social media alone may not need the fastest Internet connections.
  • Consider upload speed as well. For things like video conferencing, it's important that upload speed be considered. Most high-speed Internet connections are asymmetrical, with upload speed being significantly slower than download speed.
  • Look at data limits and data caps. Most providers have some form of data limit or cap, but these usually aren't visibly publicized. Instead, they're written in the fine print. After exceeding these limits, the provider will usually slow the connection.

The shifts in FCC standards show that the country is committed to growing broadband accessibility. This is important. Today, high-speed, broadband Internet is so important that it's become a basic utility and a basic human right. Do you know your Internet speed? You can test it here. For more information about high-speed Internet services, connect with PS LIGHTWAVE.

PS LIGHTWAVE provides high-speed, fiber internet for public and private commercial entities in the Greater Houston and surrounding areas.

Through our high-quality infrastructure, innovative technology and expert, locally based support, we deliver not only the best in connectivity and reliability but in scalability and redundancy. We invite you to learn more about our services, our history and our dedicated team.