Broadband for rural consumers that is supported by the Connect America Fund must deliver the same speeds that 99% of urban Americans enjoy, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said in an Order adopted today.
The FCC will now require companies receiving Connect America funding for fixed broadband to serve consumers with speeds of at least 10 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads. That is an increase reflecting marketplace and technological changes that have occurred since the FCC set its previous requirement of 4 Mbps/1 Mbps speeds in 2011.
According to recent FCC data, 99% of Americans living in urban areas have access to fixed broadband speeds of 10/1, which can accommodate more modern applications and uses. Moreover, the vast majority of urban households are able to subscribe to even faster service.
Congress directed the FCC to make available in rural areas communications services that are reasonably comparable to those in urban areas. Increasing the Connect America speed requirement means that rural Americans, like urban Americans, can tap the benefits provided by broadband through faster web downloads, improved video streaming, and service capable of supporting multiple users in a household.
In 2011, the FCC reformed its universal service program for rural telephone service so it can more effectively support networks delivering both broadband and voice.
With the adoption of today's Order, the FCC says that it is prepared to make offers of support totaling up to nearly $1.8 billion annually to a class of larger carriers known as price cap carriers in early 2015, which will potentially expand service to over 5 million rural Americans.
More information about the Connect America Fund is available at https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/connecting-america.