CPUC changes tack, heads toward an emphatic yes, speed matters

28 September 2017 by Steve Blum
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The latest draft of the California Public Utilities Commission’s broadband advice to the Federal Communications Commission specifically calls out speed as a key benchmark, and recommends that the standard for advanced telecoms capability remain 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.

The first draft ducked the speed issue and focused on other metrics such as latency and dropped connections. Which are important, particularly for high end commercial and industrial applications. But speed matters and the comments that CPUC commissioners are scheduled to consider at their meeting later this morning put it at the top of the list…

The 25/3 speed tier, the FCC’s current benchmark for “Advanced Services,” represents a useful, reasonable, and forward-looking dividing point to define a “high-speed” broadband tier. We note that higher speeds improve the performance of video streaming services from companies like Netflix and Amazon, as well as live-video feeds from companies like Facebook and Twitter. While Netflix recommends a five Mbps connection for high definition video streaming, households that include multiple end-users using multiple devices to access multiple services at the same time may find that download speed inadequate.

A significant justification cited by the FCC in its 2015 Broadband Progress Report, in creating the new 25/3 benchmark, was that households may be comprised of multiple individuals using multiple devices. The FCC has periodically raised the minimum bandwidth for “Advanced Services” over the last decade, and it is reasonable to anticipate that “Advanced Services” will not be static in the next decade. Fixed providers (especially cable providers) are already routinely offering speeds substantially in excess of the 25/3 benchmark.

Recommendation: The CPUC should inform the FCC of its findings…and recommend that at a minimum the FCC maintain its 25Mbps/3Mbps speed benchmark for fixed advanced telecommunications capability.

It’s an important message, both for the FCC, which is considering dumbing down the standard to please telecoms lobbyists and for governor Brown, who has a bill sitting on his desk – assembly bill 1665 – that would lower California’s speed standard to 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up. Also at the behest of big campaign contributors telephone and cable companies.