Week ahead: FCC to review standards for high-speed Internet

The Federal Communications Commission will consider changing the definition of broadband Internet speeds at its open meeting this week. 

At the Thursday meeting, the commission will take up a proposal to increase the broadband download speed benchmark from its current 4 megabits per second (Mbps) to 25 Mbps.

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The proposal is included in the FCC's progress report on broadband deployment, which concludes that high-speed Internet is "not being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion."

The commission will also take up a notice asking what can be done to widen access to broadband Internet. 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has advocated raising the standards for broadband speeds for months. The current definition was set more than four years ago, and Wheeler says it does not reflect Americans' increasing demand. 

The report finds 17 percent of people lack access to 25 Mbps speeds, and past reports have found choice for Internet service providers is increasingly limited when searching for higher speeds. 

The commission is also slated to vote on an order to make it easier for 911 operators to locate individuals calling from mobile phones, specifically calls made indoors. The proposal was initially circulated last year. 

Four major wireless carriers submitted their own plan to improve location accuracy. But in a blog post earlier this month, Wheeler said his order would set "clear targets and deadlines."

Republican commissioner Ajit Pai was in Texas on Friday to tout his own initiative to encourage all multi-line phone systems to connect with 911, without having to dial an extension.  

The commission will also hear a presentation on its new consumer help center that makes it easier for the public to file complaints. 

After the meeting, Wheeler is expected to take questions from reporters for the final time before he circulates proposed rules on net neutrality. His plan, which has not been released, is expected to reclassify broadband Internet similar to a public utility to enforce stronger regulations. 

Critics, though, have called on him to pause the FCC process after Republicans in Congress floated their own legislative proposal on Internet rules. Due to interest in the rules, others have called on Wheeler to release his proposed regulations to the public before the FCC votes on them.

Generally, the proposed regulations are shared with the commissioners, but the public only receives a broad outline before votes.

 

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