The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to change the definition of broadband Internet to connection speeds of 25 megabits per second or higher, up from the previous standard of 4 megabits.
FCC commissioners voted on the definition as part of the agency's 2015 Broadband Progress Report. If speeds do not reach the new threshold, a connection cannot be listed as "broadband."
The new definition of broadband does not require Internet service providers to make any changes to the services they provide.
Last week, a lawyer for the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. wrote a letter to the FCC urging the agency not to change the definition of broadband, calling it a "substantial departure" from the initial standard.
Still, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn called Thursday's vote a "forward-looking speed" to ensure that "America continues to lead the world and meet the needs of its consumers because as a nation we should always aspire to deliver the very best."
"We must ensure that all consumers have access to these life-changing technologies," Clyburn said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler hinted that he plans to propose more rigorous regulations on Internet service providers.
On Feb. 26, the FCC is set to vote on new "net neutrality" rules.
The commission's announcement on Thursday could add additional controversy to Comcast's bid to purchase Time Warner Cable.
For much of the past year, Comcast has sought to close a proposed $45-billion takeover of Time Warner Cable, but Thursday's announcement could fuel opposition to the merger by making the new company's share of the broadband market appear larger.
The change makes the share of the market held by Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, appear larger because slower connections will be eliminated from those computations, Craig Moffett, a New York-based analyst with MoffettNathanson, said in a Jan. 8 note, according to Bloomberg.
"This is obvious fodder for those who would argue Comcast's high-end-user market share would afford them market power" to impede online video providers in competition with Comcast's cable channels, Moffett reportedly said.