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FCC lays the ground work to dig the U.S. out of the broadband backwater

The U.S. is one of the most advanced and wealthy countries in the world, yet when it comes to broadband access in more rural areas of the country we lag well behind other nations. Citizens in the UK have access to better broadband speeds, as do other countries.

Here in America we are stuck with peak speeds for broadband in many areas that are but a fraction of the lowest speeds seen in other countries. This week the Australian government announced a sweeping plan that would see the investment of billions in government funds to build a nationwide fiber optic broadband network serving 90% of the homes in the country.

Wired reports that the U.S. government is now in talks to develop a national broadband plan. The FCC has been betting on the vacated analog wireless spectrum currently used by TV broadcast to deliver broadband to most homes in the country. The big issue with that plan is that the major winners, AT&T and Verizon, are notorious for strapping such low bandwidth caps on their offerings as to make them unusable to many.

Wired reports that the FCC has a year to survey the nation's internet infrastructure and recommend a plan either to start building a nationwide network or to leave things as they are. President Obama has a nationwide network in mind, as evidenced by the $7.2 billion that was allocated to extend broadband to underserved rural areas.

As often happens in the U.S. government, rather than action and progress the funds have been stuck in a debate over what “underserved and rural” actually defines. The AFP reports that the FCC is seeking input from industry, business, non-profits, and governments federal, state, and local. The different entities have until February 17, 2010 to report to Congress.

Among the aspects the plan is said to be considering are broadband supply and demand; quality and affordability; and problems, threats, or vulnerabilities to the proposed network. Also being examined is how broadband will affect civic participation, public safety, homeland security, community developments, health care delivery, energy independence, and education.

FCC Chairman Michael Copps said, "Today, we commence a national dialogue on how we as a nation can make high-speed broadband available, affordable and easily useable to citizens and businesses throughout the land. This Commission has never, I believe, received a more serious charge than the one to spearhead development of a national broadband plan."

The AFP reports that America trails Japan, Sweden, South Korea, France, Germany, and Canada in broadband quality and subscription rates per capita. One of the key elements under discussion is the speed of the network. Median speeds for broadband access in the U.S. are under 5 Mbps whereas median speeds in Japan are 63 Mbps and in South Korea it's 49 Mbps.

The FCC defines broadband today as connections offering at least 786 Kbps. However, groups such as the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) are seeking speeds on the network of between 10 Mbps and 50 Mbps.

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Speeds we should have access to...
By psypher on 4/9/2009 11:09:13 AM , Rating: 6

In Urban areas, we should have access to 50Mbps.
In Rural areas, we should have access to at least 10Mbps.

It should cost less than $50/month.

There should be no bandwidth caps.

There you go. Make it happen.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By Silverel on 4/9/2009 11:13:39 AM , Rating: 4
I'd like to recommend a 6 for this gentleman. Best plan I've heard in a long time.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By quiksilvr on 4/9/2009 2:37:00 PM , Rating: 3
How DO people get a 6? I got one a long time ago and for the life of me can't figure out why it happens. Once someone gets a 5, you can't rate it higher.

Unless it's like he/she started at a 2 and then went up to a 4 but then someone rated him/her down to a 3 but then was rated back up to a 5. Since that person got rated down once, they can't get a 6. Is that how it works? You have to be continuously voted up to a 6 with no down rates? Or do the authors head hurts.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By GaryJohnson on 4/9/2009 3:44:57 PM , Rating: 5
Or do the authors decide


RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By tastyratz on 4/9/2009 4:02:09 PM , Rating: 3

Only Kristopher can give people a 6, and its usually only for exceptionally radiant posts.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By AstroCreep on 4/9/2009 4:22:49 PM , Rating: 4
Only Kristopher can give people a 6, and its usually only for exceptionally radiant posts.

The posts that make him LOL, anyway.

By KristopherKubicki on 4/10/2009 8:32:24 AM , Rating: 3

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By dastruch on 4/9/2009 5:36:46 PM , Rating: 1
you should be rated down for this one :)

By maverick85wd on 4/10/2009 5:48:32 PM , Rating: 2
why? He posed a good question, I was wondering how it happened myself.

By callmeroy on 4/10/2009 7:26:00 AM , Rating: 2
That would be great, but its very very easy to type up what SHOULD be done in a 10 second post on a forum, than for it to actually happen both financially, and labor wise --- so I wouldn't count on it.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By kattanna on 4/9/2009 11:17:08 AM , Rating: 5
willnt happen.. look who they are asking about this

FCC is seeking input from industry, business, non-profits, and governments federal, state, and local.

notice that this "national" discussion doesnt include your everyday citizen??

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By MadMan007 on 4/9/2009 12:20:37 PM , Rating: 3
Yeah I'm envisioning Telecom Act of 1996 part II now. :( Companies get money from government, don't do waht they were supposed to, and pad the bottom line instead. I mean really, what's the point of asking the same entities who are already in charge of the system? Why not get some new ideas?

Maybe the Lafayette local government will be extremely vocal:

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By Redwin on 4/9/2009 7:02:00 PM , Rating: 2
<sigh> I grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Now I live in southern california (San Diego), where I would expect to be able to get much better internet than back home in lafayette... yet... I can't get Verizon fiber here because its an ATT-monopoly area, and all my high school friends back in lafayette are now telling me how they are getting their installs for LUS municipal fiber scheduled.

I cry at the irony.

By sleepeeg3 on 4/13/2009 4:23:22 PM , Rating: 2
You have AT&T and Cox as choices. How is having two options in a major city vs no options in a minor one ironic? Whine to Verizon, if you want a third competitor. Sounds to me like they would only stand to lose money. I don't want my taxpayer dollars going to pay for cheap internet for some guy in a wifebeater in Dacula.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By Cincybeck on 4/9/2009 12:57:19 PM , Rating: 5
"notice that this "national" discussion doesnt include your everyday citizen??"

Sure it does.

"governments federal, state, and local."

That's why we have representatives, and do not go to the polls everyday to make a few decisions. You want your voice to be heard? Write your State, and/or local representatives. Urge every one you know to write them as well, requesting the same thing. Or make a petition, and get 100 or so people to sign it. That what they're there for.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By PhoenixKnight on 4/9/2009 2:22:08 PM , Rating: 5
It helps even more if you have tons of money to hire lobbyists to offer incentives to your representatives.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By alifbaa on 4/9/2009 2:58:01 PM , Rating: 5
Actually, it really doesn't. I used to work at a senator's office, and I can tell you that when a block of people get motivated enough over an issue to call or especially write in, the office perks up and starts paying attention real fast.

The vast majority of issues, even serious ones, don't spur people into action. In those cases, the lobbyists are the only voices heard because they're the only ones speaking. Yes, they individually have more access to the leader than you or I do, but they only have about the same power that even as few as 10 people writing in have.

If we got a letter, we'd figure 100 or so people agreed with that person and were motivated by the issue but didn't bother to write. If 10 people wrote in to voice an opinion on a specific measure, it was a big deal. When the senator got his advice on how to vote from his chief of staff, he would ALWAYS get briefed on what the constituents had to say about it and how the vote would play back home with the voters. If there was a substantial polarity in the opinion, the lobbyists' views quickly transitioned from being the driving force to an influence.

Money certainly buys a candidate access to publicity, but only voters get him/her into office. As the previous poster said -- if you feel strongly about it -- write your leaders a letter and encourage your like-minded friends to do so as well.

On a side note, we had a policy that form letters got a form response while individual letters got an individual response. An individually written and mailed letter is the best, most powerful way for anyone to get their elected representative's attention.

By xanthyr on 4/10/2009 1:52:39 PM , Rating: 2
Thank you for that post. That has certainly motivated me to at least try to write my congressman.

By Pythias on 4/9/2009 6:52:10 PM , Rating: 3
If you believe "your" representatives actually represent anyone but themselves, I'd like to meet your pharmacist.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By FITCamaro on 4/9/2009 12:03:07 PM , Rating: 5
I have a better idea. Eliminate the mandated monopolies. Allow the free market to thrive and let competition raise speeds and lower prices. Let private industry pay for these upgrades instead of making the 50% of the country that actually pays taxes pay for the upgrades and provide service for free to people who do not.

Doing this would allow Verizon to gradually roll out FiOS nationwide which is capable of these speeds. Will it be available out in the sticks? No. But that's what you get for living out there.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By drebo on 4/9/2009 12:06:31 PM , Rating: 5
50% of the country pays taxes? That's being generous.

I'd wager it's more like 20%. Especially now.

By callmeroy on 4/10/2009 7:39:40 AM , Rating: 2
Considering 5% of the nation's population paid 50% (actually 59%) of the nation's tax bill in 2007, and in that same year 40% of American citizens (including non-filers) paid no tax at all....yes I too do think 50% is a rather high figure.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By quiksilvr on 4/9/2009 2:39:22 PM , Rating: 3
So people that live too far away can't get FiOS because..they live too far away? Cmon, man! Farmers need to get their HD pr0n on too!

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By FITCamaro on 4/9/2009 3:16:06 PM , Rating: 2
Then they can watch it via satellite TV or internet. Besides companies are already working on wireless technologies to bring nationwide broadband speed internet.

By trisct on 4/10/2009 3:40:17 PM , Rating: 2
Deploying, in other countries. My cousin in Canada lives 20 miles from the nearest town (which is 800 people or so) but still gets 2Mbps wireless Internet via WiMAX. Not 10, mind you, but the Web and even lower quality video is completely accessible at those speeds.

Anyone that can see the tower (LOS, you don't really need to make it out) can get Internet. The USA market just doesn't have the will yet, it is easier to concentrate on the low-hanging fruit of urban areas to maximize the bottom line. Here, some legislative "assistance" might be needed.

By celticbrewer on 4/9/2009 3:39:18 PM , Rating: 2
I don't disagree with the free market philosophy. I think we're fine as is. BUT I don't think it'll solve the problem this article addresses. Companies (monopolies or not) aren't going to spend a few million to bring broadband to a backwater farm town of 200 people- they'll never make their money back.

Someone needs to come up with a method besides laying fiber, whether it's wireless or satelite. Others are working on using existing power lines to transmit broadband. That's the only way to reach everyone at a reasonable cost.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By newguy39 on 4/9/2009 12:05:44 PM , Rating: 2
In Urban areas, we should have access to 50Mbps. In Rural areas, we should have access to at least 10Mbps.

Actually from an infrastructure perspective it makes more sense to do 10Mbps in urban areas where the population density is greater and the ratio of users to access devices will be greater. In more rural areas with less folks sharing the same access device, each user could have higher bandwith.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By Jeff7181 on 4/9/2009 12:18:23 PM , Rating: 2
No, it doesn't. It's more cost effective to lay infrastructure that services tens of thousands of customers (New York City) then it is to lay instrastructure to service hundreds of people (BFE).

By Jeff7181 on 4/9/2009 12:20:19 PM , Rating: 4
Also, if you didn't know already, the "word" instrastructure is interchangeable with infrastructure. ;)

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By Oregonian2 on 4/9/2009 12:53:39 PM , Rating: 2
You're saying that they'll install the same insanely expensive super-duper high bandwidth "main" pipe (and associated electronics and super-spendy routers,etc) in the rural areas as they might do in a comparatively dense city install? I suspect your reasoning is good but there may be a problem with the assumptions made.

Systems in rural areas would likely be much more cost optimized to the likely revenue expected to be received to pay for it.

By sinful on 4/9/2009 10:26:20 PM , Rating: 2
Physically running fiber is the main cost, and the cost is essentially the same whether you're laying 1 strand of fiber or 50.

Generally, when most companies lay fiber, they lay excess in what they need - the cost of the cable is practically nothing, but the physical labor costs to do it is high.

Ergo, if you're laying fiber to podunksville, it costs the same to lay 100GB of fiber as it does to lay 10GB of fiber.
You may pay slightly more for the equipment, but your main cost is paying the people to dig miles worth of ditches....

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By wildcatherder on 4/9/2009 12:34:28 PM , Rating: 5
This is the Rural Farm Delivery program of the 21st century. The ability to access good and services through the U.S. Mail revolutionized rural life and did much to heal the schism between rural and urban lifestyles.

Congress complained that RFD would bankrupt the country. Instead it revived flagging commerce and stimulated farm production.

A national broadband initiative is already overdue.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By shin0bi272 on 4/9/2009 1:46:23 PM , Rating: 2
It's not the congress' job to give you internet access.

By alifbaa on 4/9/2009 3:10:10 PM , Rating: 5
I think what the poster was saying was that it wasn't the congress' job to give farmers electricity either, but they did.

At the time, rural electrification was highly controversial, and very expensive. Many believed it would damage the country. Decades later, it's clear the result was a more harmonious and stable country with a better quality food supply at lower prices.

When I lived in Nebraska, it was not uncommon for towns with 20,000 people to only have 256K connections in the town and dial up just outside of town. Small factories and businesses there were unable to compete with large companies from elsewhere in the country because they couldn't set up an internet presence to buy materials or sell products. The lack of internet access is literally threatening the existence of these towns.

This initiative could go a long way toward increasing choice in the national/global marketplace while saving these small towns and the rural way of life.

By CommodoreVic20 on 4/9/2009 1:41:32 PM , Rating: 3
I second the motion!

By Ammohunt on 4/9/2009 2:37:02 PM , Rating: 3
The author is a little misguided. the UK is the size of an average sized state in America? its the same as compairing the German Autobahn to the US highway system the distances that need to be traversed are immense. Not a cost affective task running 10mb FIOS to podunk US for 10 users in a town of 500.

RE: Speeds we should have access to...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/9/2009 3:37:49 PM , Rating: 2
Simple. In Urban areas, we should have access to 50Mbps.
In Rural areas, we should have access to at least 10Mbps.

It should cost less than $50/month.

There should be no bandwidth caps.

There you go. Make it happen.

Yeah but if anyone believes the Government via the FCC getting involved is going to make this happen, they are on crack cocaine.

By Beno on 4/9/2009 4:48:32 PM , Rating: 2
then we'll kiss all that goodbye

By superkdogg on 4/9/2009 3:44:37 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, that.

And since I'm rural, I want the option to have 2.5 and 5 Mbps service for $20 and $30 because low-volume users and basic web surfers won't notice much if any difference above 1 Mbps so they shouldn't be forced into paying $50/mo. for something that they have now for $15 (slow-speed dsl, etc.).

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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