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United States Government The Internet

Why 6 Republican Senators Think You Don't Need Faster Broadband (cio.com) 522

itwbennett writes: Broadband in the United States still lags behind similar service in other industrialized countries, so Congress made broadband expansion a national priority, and it offers subsidies, mostly in rural areas, to help providers expand their offerings,' writes Bill Snyder. And that's where an effort by the big ISPs and a group of senators to change the definition of broadband comes in. Of course, the ISPs want the threshold to be as low as possible so it's easier for them to qualify for government subsidies. In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, dated January 21, 2016, the senators called the current broadband benchmark of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream 'arbitrary' and said that users don't need that kind of speed anyway. '[W]e are aware of few applications that require download speeds of 25 Mbps.' the senators wrote, missing the simple fact that many users have multiple connected devices.
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Why 6 Republican Senators Think You Don't Need Faster Broadband

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  • Think? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @11:11PM (#51371109) Journal

    Isn't it closer to "Why 6 Republican Senators Are Repeating Cable ISP Lobbyists' Talking Points on Why You Don't Need Faster Broadband"?

    • Re:Think? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @11:43PM (#51371269)

      Be warned that Marco Rubio also supports lowering the broadband standard, and is against net neutrality.

      Anything less than 25/5 (and no scumsucking usage cap!) is like having to crawl across a swaying rope bridge on an Interstate Highway.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Some of us do just fine on 3/768k you entitled, millenial douche.

        • Re:Think? (Score:5, Funny)

          by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:38AM (#51371525)

          Some of us do just fine on 3/768k you entitled, millenial douche.

          Heh. I've never seen narrow-band elitism before.

          • by duckintheface ( 710137 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @08:18AM (#51372627)

            Of course this is a moving scale over time. Right now, for most people, it's about 5Mbps down per person in the household. Netflix takes 3 Mbps. VOIP phone takes 0.16 Mbps. File downloads are usually limited by the server on the other end. I guess that servers will get faster if most folks have faster download speeds. Simple webpage downloads are limited by latency and broadband has little effect. I would really like to hear the case for speeds over 5Mbps/person.

            But that's a different issue from what the official "broadband" definition should be. Government subsidies should only go to companies that are pushing the boundaries. Time Warner should not get money for building more of the same slow service.

      • Re:Think? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Wycliffe ( 116160 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:51AM (#51371597) Homepage

        Be warned that Marco Rubio also supports lowering the broadband standard, and is against net neutrality.

        Anything less than 25/5 (and no scumsucking usage cap!) is like having to crawl across a swaying rope bridge on an Interstate Highway.

        I've been on 25/5 and on 3/1 and really can't tell much difference because most stuff is oversold to be barely tolerable. I would have no problem with them coming to some reasonable middle ground if they could figure out how to solve the oversold problem**. I currently work from home and I'm on a middle tier package which works fine during the work day but evenings it is barely usable and I've actually had to call in sick on days when the local school district has a snow day because all the neighbor kids are home and using the internet.

        ** The oversold problem is fixable if they want it to be. Just like fractional reserve banking or landline phones, you require a certain reserve and you build out for peak demand. Yes, this means that you're running at 50% capacity most of the time but then your service is actually usable during peak times. You can also use education, software, and incentives to try to get certain heavy non time critical downloads to happen during times where bandwidth is virtually free.

        • Re:Think? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by PlusFiveTroll ( 754249 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @01:30AM (#51371725) Homepage

          >I've been on 25/5 and on 3/1 and really can't tell much difference because most stuff is oversold to be barely tolerable

          Just because you live in Comcast or Centurylink's area doesn't mean that other places with better internet don't exist. I currently have 100/10, and would I notice a difference between that and 25/5, no, but the four other people in my house watching videos and playing games don't notice each other slowing down the net either.

          That said, until a way to sue ISPs for their complete and total lack of providing their advertized service exists, many places will continue to have crap service.

          • Re:Think? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @04:53AM (#51372183)
            Don't forget that all their advertising uses the key phrase 'up to'. That means if it's anything less than the advertised number, they don't give a shit because they never promised you'd get that number, just that you won't get more than that.
            • "up to" should be limited to a certain ratio of oversold capacity. You can say "up to" only when you're oversold by 20:1.

              So if you have a 40Mbps line but there are 40 subscribers, you can only say "up to 20Mbps" even if the line is capable of 40Mbps peak. 20:1 might be low, but I don't run a last-mile network (it likely depends on the total number of subscribers on a node).

              "Up to" is a fact of life, because few people can afford a 1:1 dedicated line. Even business-class service is oversold for a good rea

        • I'm sorry but that is pure BS, at my previous job we had hundreds of locations all over the US and Puerto Rico and the number of places that couldn't reach 80+% of their rated download speed 90+% of the time could be measured on one hand and most of those could be fixed with a call to tech support or harassing our account exec. The only unfixable locations I can remember were Frontier or Windstream DSL connections in locations with no alternatives so those bottom suckers didn't give a damn. This covers the

        • Re:Think? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @01:37AM (#51371753)

          I've been on 25/5 and on 3/1 and really can't tell much difference ...

          You obviously don't have a teenage daughter. The formal definition of broadband is this: A man's wife and daughter can watch two different Netflix movies simultaneously, and he can still get work done.

          • You obviously don't have a teenage daughter. The formal definition of broadband is this: A man's wife and daughter can watch two different Netflix movies simultaneously, and he can still get work done.

            We had a similar problem. My wife grounded our daughter and threatened to withhold sex from me, and now she is very happy with the internet speed.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by penguinoid ( 724646 )

      Also, if it was only 6 of them then it would be time for rejoicing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by _Sharp'r_ ( 649297 )

      The summary is BS. It says the Republicans are trying to change the definition, when what's being argued with is the FCC arbitrarily changing their previous definition: [theverge.com]
      "As part of its 2015 Broadband Progress Report, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to change the definition of broadband by raising the minimum download speeds needed from 4Mbps to 25Mbps, and the minimum upload speed from 1Mbps to 3Mbps, which effectively triples the number of US households without broadband acces

      • Re:Think? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:42AM (#51371549) Homepage

        I take it you don't like things like fiscal policies adjusted to inflation?

        Because thanks to the ad networks and crazy web frameworks, each site has "byte inflation" every year. Some is better stuff (i.e., more streaming video, higher resolution pictures, richer pages) other stuff is just bloat, but it's all the same.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Definitions change, shill-boy. I remember when Pentiums were 'fast' and 100MB Zip-Disks were 'huge'. Funny how those descriptors become obsolete when technology and standards progress.

        I don't really know what your gripe is anyway, given that you've not offered the 'honest way to go about it', whatever 'it' is. Is it that we're finally pressing the established monopolies to provide more than the bare minimum? That we're trying to establish a standard to quantify quality of service beyond rigged speed tests a

        • And in the mean time what's the effect of this decision? Well, we'll likely see broadband providers dump more funding into the larger population centers, leaving people still on dial up, well, still on dial up.
          • Being the majority of the population lives in larger population centers, that is the correct solution.

            • Re:Think? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by bjwest ( 14070 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @03:58AM (#51372055)

              Being the majority of the population lives in larger population centers, that is the correct solution.

              No, it's not. The large population centers don't need subsidies to get the latest and greatest, the ISPs can afford to up grade due to the large number of subscribers per line. It's the people out in the boonies that need the subsidies, just like in the days they were rolling out electricity, then phones, then water lines.

              • Furthermore, they haven't been improving service in the large metropolitan centers, by and large. If they had been, whether you live in one or not would be the best indicator of faster service availability. Instead, the best indicator of faster service, regardless of where you live, tends to be the presence of outside competition, especially Google Fiber.

                The major ISPs (Cable, Verizon, etc) have been able to afford upgrades for a long time, but they've preferred to push the money into profits instead.
      • You're right, the words baseband and broadband actually do have definitions, they MEAN something. 10BASE-T, 100BASE-T are so named because they are10 and 100 meg BASEband transmission over telephone cable. Baseband means there is a signal frequency used, the data rate is the signaling rate.

        BROADband means multiple channels are used. A cable modem may use four different (tv) channels at 2.5 Mbps signaling rate each to provide 10Mbps of data rate. A T1 is 24 channels of 64kbps each, so it's broadband, as is

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by harperska ( 1376103 )

          What is at question is the minimum data rate required to qualify for subsidies. Quibbling over the actual word used in the regulation text is being overly pedantic and missing the point, especially when considering that words may have multiple meanings which even so are unambiguous in their different contexts. Nobody was debating the definition of the word "broadband" in the regulatory sense when it was defined to mean "at least 4 mbps download data rate and at least 1 mbps upload data rate".

      • Re:Think? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @03:36AM (#51372013)

        You may want people to have faster speeds, but changing what terms mean isn't an honest way to go about it.

        Bullshit. "Energy efficient" has definitely changed. As has "VLSI" semiconductors, "high speed" rail, etc. Technology advances, and standards will follow.

        Anything over dial-up or ISDN speeds is technically broadband.

        No, if you want to be technical, bandwidth (NOT "speed", of course, that's silly) does not directly have anything to do with broadband communications.

        Broadband means "using a wide band of frequencies" for communication. In practice, no one gives a shit about frequencies used in the raw physical layer, net IP data bandwidth is all that matters. And even if people did care, most of the advances in data bandwidth are not actually just using "larger bands", they are using the existing bands more efficiently. DWDM, 256-QAM, VDSL, etc. As the technology gets better, OBVIOUSLY the standards for average bandwidth to the home will change...

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

        The summary is BS. It says the Republicans are trying to change the definition, when what's being argued with is the FCC arbitrarily changing their previous definition:

        Nope. That's not what happened. The FCC did explicitly say that a fixed number isn't the answer, and they gave a number that represented a reasonable number based on the market and available technology.

        "[The FCC Changed shit] which effectively triples the number of US households without broadband access."

        "broadband" is a word without a definition. It means "fast" and "fast" has no legal definition. The problem is that if you are subsidizing "fast" and "fast" is slow, you are wasting government money on inferior connections.

        Why do you (and the Republican Senators) want to waste taxpayer money subsidizing

    • I think its more like:

      "Why 6 Republican Senators Are Repeating Satellite/DSL ISP Lobbyists' Talking Points on Why You Don't Need Faster Broadband"?

      Both DSL and satellite have a really hard time getting those speeds.

    • Think large donors don't get favors now do you?

  • by pecosdave ( 536896 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @11:20PM (#51371153) Homepage Journal

    by different lobby group than congressmen from Democrat party. New at 11

    They cooperated to get the SOPA and PIPA stuff we fought against so hard crammed into the TPP so whichever evil side you support remember, this left wing propaganda article brought to you by Slashdot.org!

    • Republican lobbyists are for gutting broadband, while the Democrat lobbyists are for letting their parasite Hollywood 'rights holders' prevent us from streaming anything through it.

    • by T.E.D. ( 34228 )

      I'm old enough that I can still remember the good old days when "left wing propaganda" actually required misrepresenting the situation a little bit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    25Mbps doesn't cut it in a household with everyone using the Internet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      I am still on 10mbps/1mbps at home and I can do quite a bit with it. I could upgrade to 50mbps/20mbps for 20$ a month or something but I would consider it like a waste of money. I have 100mbps/100mbps in the data center although.

      • by Barny ( 103770 )

        4.5/.5 here, yup, sitting almost exactly 4km between two adsl exchanges :/

        If we run two netflix HD streams at once, they keep both switching back and forth between HD and SD.

      • I don't need much at home either. I am on a 25 Mbps connection which easily handles all my families usage including streaming. But 100mbps in a Datacenter???? WTF, that is 1990's speeds, we have nothing below 1Gbps, most at 10Gpbs and some servers at 40Gpbs.
    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      25Mbps doesn't cut it in a household with everyone using the Internet.

      This is what boggles the mind. Republicans on average have more kids (not going into speculations on reasons here), so you'd think they'd feel the pressure for more family bandwidth more?

      Anyhow, I'm more worried about the upstream bandwidth. How are you going to video conference while sharing a whiteboard and stuff with just a 3 Mbps line? That's part of a normal workday these days.

      • by ShaunC ( 203807 )

        I doubt Senators are feeling any pressure over family bandwidth. You can bet they have the fastest available plans, plus those special cards [slashdot.org] Comcast hands out to members of Congress with a domestic support number that gets answered right away and provides a VIP customer service experience. Of course they think the internet is fast enough and customer service is top notch; in their world, these things are true.

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @11:22PM (#51371161) Journal
    Not sure, but if history is any indicator, it will likely include the further restriction of my freedoms for my own good.
  • Our business is suffering because of lack of decent Internet connectivity in our area. These fucking corrupt lying pieces of shit need to quit calling themselves "pro-small business" because that's an outright lie. Has been for as long as I could remember, in fact.
    • by TheSync ( 5291 )

      Maybe you should lay some fiber, because clearly there is a profitable opportunity being left on the table...

  • by nichogenius ( 3606787 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @11:42PM (#51371257)
    but.... I would be happy if my parent's rural location could get a consistent 2 Mb/s up and down connection without paying $100/month for high latency satellite.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, if you read the letter (ha!) sent by the Senators, one of their concerns is that the FCC is using two different benchmarks and definitions of broadband for the urban and rural markets. Urban benchmark is 25/3 while rural is anything above dialup essentially. You can obviously see that there the FCC is creating a rich/poor standard which runs counter to Congress wishes to get everyone (urban, rural) up to the 25/3 benchmark (which they say is also rather arbitrary). The letter does not call for any

  • by acoustix ( 123925 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @11:43PM (#51371263) Homepage

    ...has nothing to do with speed. It has to do with transmitting multiple signals over different frequencies.

    "a high-capacity transmission technique using a wide range of frequencies, which enables a large number of messages to be communicated simultaneously."

    Call it high speed Internet. Please stop fucking up our language.

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @11:46PM (#51371283)

    So, six ignorant Representatives think 25Mb is far too fast for people.

    Fine. In order to support this argument, I want to mandate that these six individuals get their own broadband service capped at 10Mb for an entire year. Let's see how quickly their opinions change. After a week of trying to explain to their families that 10Mb is "fast enough", it won't even matter how much corporate grease is on their palms.

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      ... or the experiment could totally backfire, as the Representatives find that 10Mb/sec service is indeed "plenty fast" for their Internet needs (which include emailing their relatives, browsing the web, and using Facebook/Twitter, but not streaming HD movies).

      (As for their family, their children have grown up and left home, and their husband's/wife's Internet habits are likely similar to their own)

  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Monday January 25, 2016 @11:46PM (#51371287)
    If it goes to a corporation with the money for lobbyists, it's a subsidy. It will help the economy. And generate campaign contributions (aka bribes).

    If anything goes to poor people who have no lobbyist and no campaign contributions it's welfare and is evil.

    Capitalism should be pure and not fettered by evil and incompetent gumment interference. Unless there is free money with no strings attached, at which point the more gumment involvement the better.

    And if you think it's not free money, just try taking it away. The recipients will start squealing like stuck pigs.

  • by AnotherBlackHat ( 265897 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:03AM (#51371361) Homepage

    I ask myself, if I could get 5 Mbps for $20, 20 Mbps for $40, 100 Mbps for $80 or 1,000 Mbps for $160, which would I chose?
    And the answer (for me) is 20 Mbps for $40.
    I'd like more, but I'm not willing to pay for it.

    The average Slashdotter is likely to pick a higher tier, but the average American?
    I bet most would be satisfied with (5Mbps * number_of_people_in_household), and $20/month would look very attractive to many.

  • by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:06AM (#51371379) Homepage
    Broadband needs to be a utility and regulated as such. I've got my fingers crossed that Obama can get that done before he leaves office. Many people, like myself, live in places where the Internet options are 1. Shit 2. Shittier. Internet is too important today to be left to "The Invisible Hand". The barriers to entry are simply too high for there to be any kind of competition, so the government really needs to take care of it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:07AM (#51371389)

    https://www.daines.senate.gov/news/press-releases/daines-calls-on-fcc-to-clarify-broadband-definition

    Daines Calls on FCC to Clarify Broadband Definition

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Steve Daines today led five of his Senate colleagues in urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify their inconsistent and arbitrary definitions of broadband, which could detrimentally impact rural Montanans.

    The letter is also signed by Roger Wicker (MS), Roy Blunt (MO), Deb Fischer (NE), Ron Johnson (WI) and Cory Gardner (CO).

    The senators expressed their concerns that:

    The FCC’s arbitrary 25/3 Mbps benchmark speed does not reflect what most Americans consider broadband
    The use of this benchmark discourages providers from offering speeds at or above the benchmark
    The definition contradicts the broadband definition used in the Open Internet Order
    The FCC uses a different benchmark when referring to broadband in rural America

    “We are concerned that this arbitrary 25/3 Mbps benchmark fails to accurately capture what most Americans consider broadband, the use of this benchmark discourages broadband providers from offering speeds at or above the benchmark, the definition contradicts the ‘broadband’ definition the Commission used in its Open Internet Order, and that the Commission uses an entirely different benchmark when it comes to rural America,” the senators wrote.

    The senators also sought additional clarification of the FCC’s broadband definition in its application to rural consumers: “It is unclear how applying a different definition of broadband to urban and rural areas is consistent with this clear Congressional directive. Nor is it clear how the Commission can justify defining broadband by the 25/3 Mbps benchmark in one context (when assessing the market under section 706), but ignoring this definition when it sought to regulate 'broadband' Internet access providers in its Open Internet Order -- there, essentially including any service above dial-up as ‘broadband’."

    Senator Daines’ effort to encourage innovation and gain certainty for rural broadband providers and consumers was applauded by the Montana Telecommunications Association: “The Montana Telecommunications Association (MTA) shares the concerns that Sen. Daines raises in his letter to the FCC. Montana’s rural telecom providers continue to push advanced broadband capabilities to consumers throughout their service areas, including in some instances deploying gigabit services to schools and other anchor institutions in the near future. It is important to recognize that it costs more to deploy broadband infrastructure in rural, remote areas. Given the substantial challenges facing rural telecom providers, regulatory certainty is important in meeting the goals of the federal Telecommunications Act to ensure that all Americans, no matter where they live, have access to reasonably comparable broadband services at reasonably comparable rates. MTA appreciates Sen. Daines raising these points, and looks forward to working with him and the FCC as we deploy broadband infrastructure throughout rural Montana.”

    Daines has long worked to improve rural Montanans’ access to broadband and increase transparency and accountability at the FCC. This fall, he introduced the Streamlining and Investing in Broadband Infrastructure Act, which would help increase broadband deployment in rural states.

    Daines recently urged the FCC to consider strict enforcement measures and increase transparency for the recently announced Connect America Fund funding, which is intended to expand and support broadband service in rural areas. Daines also introduced the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act of 2015, which would protect Montana small businesses from burdensome FCC regulations.

    Read

  • by Pezbian ( 1641885 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @12:29AM (#51371495)

    All the more reason old people should not be leaders of any stripe.

    Take your Geritol, watch Matlock, and have a nap. No, I don't know where your cereal bowl is. No, I don't care that you remember when "this was all farmland". And, no, your time "in the war" isn't a bargaining chip.

  • They're right about one thing: 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up *is* an arbitrary designation for calling something "broadband". Let's pick 10Gbps full duplex as our definition of broadband instead, before broadband access gets ruled a basic human right.
  • If more people get 25 MPBs service, more services will be available at 25 MBPs. Chicken and egg Senators, chicken and egg.
  • I don't buy the proposition people are deriving much value from >10megabit pipes. Even with a half dozen people sharing one 10 mbit pipe at once lack of queue management and round trip latency is why your experience will suck long before available bandwidth is a limiting factor.

    There are counter examples... 3 people streaming different HD titles at the same time while playing xbox games, bit torrent, using a cloud backup service and talking on VOIP at once. However it is still a mistake to allow policy

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      I sit with 10/100 and in most cases it's enough, but whenever it's time for some download of OS updates it's still limiting.

      As soon as there's a matter of streaming videos, like YouTube videos at 4k it will not work well with 10Mbps, quirky with 25 and probably decent with 100MBps. "UMAX in Korea, for instance, compresses its 4K p60 streams at 32Mbps", but even if the video stream is at half your bandwidth it's an average figure and in some cases it can peak at a higher level which may mean lost packets and

  • by slazzy ( 864185 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @01:35AM (#51371743) Homepage Journal
    We still use Carrier Pigeons for our packets. The speed is okay with a box of 128GB SDHC cards, but the latency is the shits.
  • by Yaztromo ( 655250 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @02:01AM (#51371809) Homepage Journal

    Back in 1985, 2400bps was fast enough for anyone -- users typically didn't need the kind of speed 4800bps (or -- gasp -- 9600bps) gave you.

    But you know what? As more bandwidth became available, developers were able to write different kinds of applications to take advantage of it.

    So sure -- if you're just browsing /., you probably don't need anything higher than 25Mbps. But saying that's all anyone needs discounts the probability that with more bandwidth, new types of applications and usage scenarios can open up.

    Fortunately, I sit here in Canada with a 120Mbps home cable connection, and don't have to give much of a crap about idiot Senators in the US.

    Yaz

  • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @02:32AM (#51371857)

    or slashdot?

  • I live in India (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @02:45AM (#51371889)

    I live in a small town in India and I have a fibre to home 24Mbps connection for around 20 USD a month with 80GB cap. I can go for a faster connection with a larger cap but I have no use for it as of now.. Surprised the US is still lagging behind in terms of broadband..

  • by organgtool ( 966989 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @11:10AM (#51373635)
    That's funny because I just switched ISPs and the sales rep of my new provider was pretty adamant that 50 Mb/s was not going to be enough for a household of one person. At the same time, ISPs are telling senators that households (which likely have more than one person) don't need any more than 25 Mb/s. It sounds like the ISPs are talking out of both sides of their ass.
  • by bravecanadian ( 638315 ) on Tuesday January 26, 2016 @11:27AM (#51373783)

    because they got campaign financing and lobbying from entrenched ISPs?

    That and the fact that Republicans have gone full pants-on-head retarded recently.

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