An effort by the big ISPs and a group of Republican senators to change the definition of broadband\u00a0could affect millions of consumers and small businesses that are still stuck in the Internet's slow lane.\n\n\nFor years, broadband was defined as a barely satisfactory 4 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream. Early last year, however,\u00a0the FCC\u00a0said that's far too slow\u00a0for an era in which consumers and businesses often stream video and use other demanding applications on multiple devices. Today, broadband is defined as a much more reasonable 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream.\n\n\nIf this was all just bureaucratic verbiage, no one would care. But it isn't, and the fact that the big ISPs are so angry about the new definition hints at its true importance. The ISPs' Republican allies in Congress were angry last year when the rule was changed, and now they are pushingthe FCC to reverse course.\n\n\n\n\n\n \nAlso on CIO.com:\n\nDemandware vs Magento: Which is best for ecommerce?\nHow three old-school companies became digital platform players\nLife in the fast lane: What gigabit Internet makes better\n\n\n\n\nWhy the definition of broadband matters\n\nThe big ISPs are finally starting to offer faster Internet connections to Americans, but the FCC says roughly 10 percent of the country still doesn't have\u00a0access to broadband as it's now defined.\u00a0The FCC isn't saying that 90 percent of the population actually has broadband, but it is available \u2014 though it might not be affordable or reliable. In many parts of the country, only one or two companies offer broadband service, so ISPs can mostly charge what they want for it.\n\n\nBroadband in the United States still lags behind\u00a0similar service in other industrialized countries, so Congress made broadband expansion a national priority, and it offers subsidies, mostly in rural areas, to help providers expand their offerings. To qualify for the funds, however, ISPs must offer service that's faster than 4 Mbps. Of course, the ISPs want the threshold to be as low as possible so it's easier for them to qualify for government subsidies.\n\n\nIn addition, some cities and counties want to build and deploy their own fiber-based broadband networks and skirt the big ISPs. Until the FCC overruled them, a number of states essentially made it impossible for cities and counties to do so. By lowering the speeds that qualify as broadband, the big ISPs would have a better argument in their fight to avoid competition from publicly owned networks.\n\nSenators say you don't need faster Internet\n\nThe six Republican senators who signed the letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler say most users don't need fast broadband Internet as it's now defined. From that letter: "Looking at the market for broadband applications, we are aware of few applications that require download speeds of 25 Mbps. Netflix, for example, recommends a download speed of 5 Mbps to receive high-definition streaming video; and Amazon recommends as speed of 3.5 Mbps."\n\n\nThe senators' claims are accurate. However, they mistakenly assume consumers don't simultaneously connect multiple devices to the Internet. And when newer video formats such as 4K\u00a0become more common, even single devices will need additional bandwidth. The ISPs know this, of course, and they frequently tout the benefits of faster \u2014\u00a0and more expensive \u2014\u00a0connectivity.\n\n\nBut they can't have it both ways.