FCC proposes doubling speed requirement for rural broadband

The Federal Communications Commission is looking to raise the minimum rural broadband speed standard to 25 Mbps, more than doubling the current requirement. In general, this would boost speeds in rural areas that receive broadband through government-subsidized programs.

Those government subsidies come from the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF). The program is paid for through phone bill fees which the Commission then dips into in order to pass funds onto carriers so they can build networks in less populated, rural areas around the country. This increased standard will only apply to networks that are built in the future, however, so the FCC will continue to use different incentives to get ISPs to increase the speeds of existing networks.

By increasing the standard to 25 / 3 Mbps, the Commission is requiring rural areas to be supplied with the same broadband speeds as urban areas. The 25 Mbps would be the required download speed, and 3 Mbps would be the upload speed.

“Rural Americans deserve services that are comparable to those in urban areas,” Chairman Ajit Pai said in a blog post today.

Under different leadership however, Pai has criticized some of these speed increases. He supported moving rural speeds from 4 Mbps to the current 10 Mbps standard. But in 2015, when Tom Wheeler’s FCC increased the nationwide broadband standard to 25 Mbps, Pai objected. Now, Pai is seeking to apply that same urban standard to rural areas as well.

Just last year, Pai sought to declare that the 10 Mbps speed on mobile devices was all the average consumer needed, and could be considered a substitute for in-home broadband services. That way, the Commission would be capable of saying that broadband was being deployed across the country at a reasonable pace. Pai backtracked on that after backlash.