Why DC’s Definition of High-Speed Internet No Longer Works
Federal lawmakers are seemingly always ready to spend tens of billions of dollars to bring high-speed internet access to rural America. That is not necessarily a bad thing. But in a post-COVID world in which the internet plays an ever-increasing role in daily life, DC’s definition of high-speed internet no longer works.
Government standards created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2015 put the threshold for high-speed internet at 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps for uploads. Granted, that’s a far cry better than what you’d get from DSL or dial-up. But it pales in comparison to what most Americans enjoy via cable and fiber optic broadband.
DC’s definition of broadband is not even up to par with the state of the industry. In industry circles, wired internet service has to offer download speeds of 100 Mbps before it is considered true broadband.
An Average 150 Mbps
In a report detailing the plight of rural Wisconsinites who can’t get high-speed internet access, the Daily Yonder says that the average internet speed across America is approximately 150 Mbps. That is six times faster than the federal standard.
Now, consider the plight of a young couple featured in the Daily Yonder story. They have to settle with a less-than-stellar DSL service that might average 9 Mbps for downloads and a paltry 0.8 Mbps for uploads. The couple also has a cellular internet hotspot to make things better.
The Rest of the World Keeps Moving
Here is why all these matters: while Washington and the states continue to sputter with grant programs designed to get rural America connected, the rest of the world keeps moving forward. The experience of the Wisconsin couple in the Daily Yonder piece says it all.
A recently awarded grant gave the couple hope that their house would be connected to a new fiber-optic network. They watched as work crews steadily worked their way up the road toward their home. The crew stopped right across the street, not a hundred feet from the couple’s home, then turned up another road and continued working.
It turns out that the couple’s home was just outside the grant program’s designated area. They missed it only because their home is located on the other side of the road.
Government Solutions Aren’t Working
Watching crews pass by your house while installing fiber-optic cables must be a frustrating experience. But it is illustrative of one simple fact: government solutions are not working. Washington and the states have been at this for years, yet there are still millions of people in rural America without access to high-speed internet, let 150 Mbps broadband.
DC’s definition of high-speed internet is by no means the cause of the problem. But it does clearly point out what the real problem is: the government is slow, inefficient, inflexible, and unable to keep pace with the real world.
Meanwhile, companies like Houston-based Blazing Hog are trying to fill the gaps with services like 4G rural internet built on cellular networks. Like satellite internet providers, 4G providers can meet the minimum threshold to be considered high-speed by the FCC. But to compete in the digital world, rural America needs more.
How Long Will It Take
One cannot help but wonder how long it will take for Washington to connect all of rural America. If it is anything like rural telephone access, it will not be pretty. The rest of the world will have already moved on from broadband by the time the last rural community is hooked up. Then Washington will have to start all over with whatever technology replaces broadband. Count on it.