The standards group CCITT defined “broadband service” in 1988 as requiring transmission channels capable of supporting bit rates greater than the primary rate which ranged from about 1.5 to 2 Mbit/s. The US National Information Infrastructure project during the 1990s brought the term into public policy debates.
Broadband became a marketing buzzword for telephone and cable companies to sell their more expensive higher data rate products, especially for Internet access. In the US National Broadband Plan of 2009 it was defined as “Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access”. The same agency has defined it differently through the years.
In 2000, 3% of the US adult population had access to a broadband connection at home. As of August 2013 70% of US adults accessed the Internet at home through a broadband connection, while 3% used dial-up.
Even though information signals generally travel between 40% and 70% of the speed of light in the medium no matter what the bit rate, higher rate services are often marketed as “faster” or “higher speeds”. (This use of the word “speed” may or may not be appropriate, depending on context. It would be accurate, for instance, to say that a file of a given size will typically take less time to finish transferring if it is being transmitted via broadband as opposed to dial-up.) Consumers are also targeted by advertisements for peak transmission rates, while actual end-to-end rates observed in practice can be lower due to other factors.
On January 29, 2015 the FCC voted to update its broadband benchmark speeds to 25 megabits per second (Mbit/s) downloads and 3 Mbit/s for uploads. The 4/1 Mbit/s previous standard set in 2010 is outdated and inadequate, the FCC found.
On March 12, 2015, the FCC released the specific details of the net neutrality rules. On April 13, 2015, the FCC published the final rule on its new “Net Neutrality” regulations.