The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) definition of broadband internet service has evolved over the past several decades. The original definition in 1996 was symmetrical, with 200 Kbps as the benchmark for both minimum download and upload speeds (200/200 Kbps). In 2010, the FCC changed the definition to an asymmetrical standard of 4/1 Mbps minimum download and upload speeds and updated the definition yet again in 2015 to the current classification of 25/3 Mbps. In acknowledging how internet usage continues to evolve, particularly with the impacts of the pandemic, there have been assertions from elected officials, technology organizations and consumer advocates that the 25/3 Mbps definition is insufficient and needs to be revised. Recently, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel proposed that broadband should be defined by minimum download/upload speeds of 100/20 Mbps. While it is unknown whether these speeds will become official FCC thresholds, the 100/20 Mbps benchmarks already are being applied in some settings including the Broadband Access, Equity and Deployment (BEAD) grant program, where a lack of access to 100/20 Mbps is used to define an “underserved” location.

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