The US could end up with slower broadband speeds than the UK if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accepts submissions on the definition of broadband from US internet service providers (ISPs).
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US ISPs are hoping to persuade the US government to accept a low threshold for the definition of broadband communications, according to submissions to the FCC reported by Reuters.
AT&T, the US's biggest telecommunications firm, said, "The definition must include those services that Americans need and want, and can afford, to participate in the internet-driven economy."
The FCC is consulting on the technical definition of broadband to help the government spend $7.2bn in loans and grants for broadband projects as part of the Obama administration's economic stimulus package.
AT&T's main broadband competitor Verizon Communications Inc. and Verizon Wireless, in which Vodafone has an interest, asked the FCC to stick to the present speeds of at least 768kbps downstream and 200kbps upstream.
In contrast, the UK's Digital Britain plan calls for a universal 2mbps service by 2012. The UK government has proposed a £200m fund plus a levy of 50p per line per month to help communications companies achieve the target, but has run into political and industry opposition.
Free Press, a public interest group, said broadband should be considered a critical infrastructure. It called for a symmetric service, with the end-user experiencing a minimum of 5mbps for uploads and downloads.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) already rates the US as a broadband laggard. In a 2008 research paper, the US ranked 19th with an average advertised rate of 9.6mbps. The top three countries were Japan with 92.8mbps, Korea with 80.8mbps and France with 51mbps. The UK was 15th with 10.7mbps.