U.S. regulators on Thursday raised the standard for high-speed Internet, voting that only connections with download speeds of 25 megabits per second or faster will qualify as broadband. The Federal Communications Commission's previous definition of broadband was a download speed of at least 4 Mbps. The change, opposed by Internet service providers and Republican FCC commissioners, means nearly a fifth of Americans and more than half of those living in rural areas now lack access to high-speed Internet. The change is not expected to immediately influence how competitive the FCC formally views the broadband market. But it could give the agency more of a bully pulpit to push Internet service providers to increase connection speeds and support competitors formed by municipalities.
The FCC is expected to use the new definition to guide how they distribute subsidies to encourage broadband deployment and upgrades to networks. Some observers also said the agency could also use it in their work to prevent states from blocking cities' efforts to build municipal broadband networks. The FCC will now collect comments on how it should spur faster deployment.
The FCC also voted on Thursday on new requirements for wireless carriers to better locate callers who dial 911 on cellphones indoors. Nationwide carriers will have to help 911 dispatchers locate, within 50 feet, 40 percent of wireless 911 calls within two years and 80 percent of such calls within six years.