FCC's 2006 study looking at the state of broadband in the U.S. was
heavily criticized, including receiving flak from the
Government Accountability Office (GAO). After all, if it
found just one connected broadband connection in a zip code, it
counted that entire zip code as covered. And if it found two
nodes connected by different companies that was a "competitive"
market.Now the FCC has released [PDF]
a more comprehensive report in lieu of its national
broadband plan, and the results aren't so pretty.
Approximately 14 to 24 million Americans nation wide lack access to
broadband. The prospects of those individuals getting broadband
aren't good. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski writes that
most of the unserved live in "expensive-to-serve areas with low
population density," and that "without substantial reforms
to the agency's universal service programs, these areas will continue
to be unserved."The study ditches the former definition
of broadband (200 kbps upstream or downstream) and offers a more
stringent definition -- any connection that peaks at 4 Mbps
downstream, 1 Mbps upstream.The report also finds that many
more Americans only have access to between 1 to 3 options.
Despite federal antitrust laws, many believe that telecoms have
worked together to drive smaller competitors out of the market.
In some regions telecoms have openly sue local broadband efforts and
poured millions towards local politicians to ban the
initiatives.The result is a lack of competition that fosters
slow, unreliable connections and artificially high prices.Telecoms
were quick to trash the report, which they say "strained
credulity". And Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), ranking
member of the House Communications Subcommittee and big
telecom ally, comments,
"I am perplexed by the FCC report’s conclusion."The
FCC plan is to sell
wireless spectrum and use the proceeds to build a broadband
network to provide an additional coverage option to 100 million
American homes. The European Union nation of Finland recently
declared the internet
a fundamental right, and that definitely appears to be the
direction the FCC is trending in as well.