In a move to better reflect the needs of consumers, the Federal Communications Commission is looking to provide a new definition for broadband Internet.

"High-speed broadband Internet" may sound just like a marketing term to attract customers, but the FCC actually sets a definition to what that means. The last time that the FCC made the definition was in 2010, when it set broadband Internet to mean download speeds of more than 4 Mbps and upload speeds of 1 Mbps.

While the 4 Mbps speed was a huge jump from the FCC's definition for broadband Internet before it that was at 768 kbps, the needs of consumers today require Internet speeds that are far faster than 4 Mbps. Netflix, which requires a minimum speed of 5 Mbps for the user to access streaming HD content, accounts for one-third of Internet traffic at night in North America. YouTube comes at second with 17 percent, and together, video streaming takes up half of evening data usage.

Additionally, while one family member is watching streaming video on the computer, another may be playing online games while another may be downloading music, further adding to the bandwidth requirements of the household.

The FCC is circulating a "notice of inquiry," which will allow the commission to then soon solicit public comments on what the minimum speed of broadband Internet should be. The minimum download speed may be decided at 10 Mbps, though that number can go as high as 25 Mbps. The minimum upload speed may be increased to 2.9 Mbps.

An updated definition of broadband Internet will force Internet service providers to make further investments in infrastructure to support the additional requirements of their users. ISPs would also have to improve services that are just borderline acceptable with today's definition. 

Massive changes in the ISP industry are on the horizon with the proposed Time Warner Cable-Concast and DirecTV-AT&T mergers. An updated definition of broadband Internet will influence FCC's study of the proposed mergers, as they would no doubt affect nationwide broadband service offerings. The FCC will look into these mergers because, tasked by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the commission should assess whether access to the Internet is reasonably and readily made available to all Americans.

The proposal of an updated definition for broadband Internet has not yet been revealed to the public. However, there is no question that this move by the FCC will support the widening and increasing needs of consumers for high-speed Internet access.

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