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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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That all sounds great but...
By MrBungle123 on 4/9/2009 11:14:12 AM , Rating: 1
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.

At a time when we have projected federal deficits around $1.8 Trillion we really should be axing projects like this that would be nice but are not really necessary. Instead the government should be encouraging more competition in the broadband markets which will have the effect of inching up speeds and lowering costs.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By TheSpaniard on 4/9/2009 11:18:20 AM , Rating: 5
there are way more useless projects that should be axed long before this....

RE: That all sounds great but...
By MrBungle123 on 4/9/09, Rating: -1
RE: That all sounds great but...
By Mitch101 on 4/9/09, Rating: 0
By TheRagnarok on 4/9/2009 1:22:16 PM , Rating: 2
Well said.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By shin0bi272 on 4/9/2009 1:42:08 PM , Rating: 2
Thats not what he's saying... hes saying the government shouldnt be funding this with our tax dollars. Its not their job. Its the job of companies like time warner and verizon to increase their speeds to entice customers (time warner rolling out 40gb/mo [no thats not a typo] bandwidth caps) and make themselves money and the government should keep their fingers out of it. Their job is to protect us from invasion and insurrection (and now piracy) and keep our debt paid off... fail, fail, fail and fail.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By PhoenixKnight on 4/9/2009 2:30:04 PM , Rating: 4
The problem is that the companies have no need to entice customers because the customers have no alternative but to use them. Many areas of the country have a choice of 2 or 3 broadband providers at most. If you don't like Comcast's prices/service, for instance, your only other choice is often dial-up.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By sleepeeg3 on 4/13/2009 4:35:20 PM , Rating: 2
So if you don't like where you live, why don't you move?

RE: That all sounds great but...
By Regs on 5/17/2009 4:29:20 PM , Rating: 2
I want to jump through my monitor right now and strangle you.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By AEvangel on 4/9/2009 12:54:58 PM , Rating: 5
I was with you till you said we needed the useless F22, yeah cause how many air to air battles have we had in the last 50 years?? We have pretty much dominated the skies since Korea.

Oh and has for the thousands of jobs that will be lost building those overpriced not needed plans, well know you can have them diggin ditches for fiber optic lines.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By MrBungle123 on 4/9/09, Rating: 0
RE: That all sounds great but...
By shin0bi272 on 4/9/09, Rating: -1
By PhoenixKnight on 4/9/2009 3:37:24 PM , Rating: 2
Then maybe should just build swarms and swarms of cheap planes to overwhelm our enemies. One F-22 may be more effective, but just imagine our enemies sh***ing their pants when they see 100 aircraft flying towards them.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By fic2 on 4/9/2009 2:59:13 PM , Rating: 5
Gaining and maintaining air superiority has been a critical part of every military operation since WWII.

Well, it sure helped to have air superiority in Iraq and Afghanistan...

Also kind of sure it probably could have been accomplished with less than 20 F-22s.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By sinful on 4/9/2009 10:40:08 PM , Rating: 2
If they are so dead set on spending this money why not buy more of the F-22's that the air force wants but now wont have the money for, at least a compelling case can be made for those.

The USSR proved that military spending while neglecting infrastructure is the road to economic disaster.

But hey, I'm sure American companies can be competitive with 56k modems and 1.5MB DSL when Australians are busy implementing 100MB internet to every house.

Just don't be surprised when the next Google, Youtube, Cisco, or Microsoft comes out of Australia and not the US.

I'm sure it will cost you a lot more than $21 if the US falls behind in technology....
Our businesses will be less competitive, there will be less innovation...
Basically, the cost of falling behind is a lot more than keeping pace.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By cscpianoman on 4/9/2009 11:29:11 AM , Rating: 2
This is one of the few things I actually think is useful with the caveat that it increases competition in the field. The primary reason we are as "backward" as we are is the lack of effective competition. Most locales enjoy probably two choices, Cable and DSL and many only have one. I have just one and I am in a very populated area of Phoenix, AZ.

The very fact that the gov't is listening to only businesses and gov't entities is a very bad sign.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By MrBungle123 on 4/9/2009 11:32:50 AM , Rating: 2
They could just make it so the cable companies have to open up their cable lines to 3rd party ISP's like the phone companies have to do with DSL.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By drebo on 4/9/2009 11:35:04 AM , Rating: 2
In the US in most places, phone lines are still a government-enforced geographic monopoly. It's up to the local government whether or not a telco has to resell its lines.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By Oregonian2 on 4/9/2009 1:05:18 PM , Rating: 2
That doesn't help at all within the context of this article.

We're talking bandwidth available to the home (or whatever). Whether there's one or ten ISP's available for the very same datapipe to the home, the bandwidth (ignoring total ISP incompetence) won't be any different. The "last mile" limiting pipe is the same pipe in all cases.

Within the context of this article, having different last-mile connections is what makes the difference. These include DSL, Cable, FiOS like fiber (what I have), and wireless. Folk forget that last one in postings I've read so far.

Having three DSL ISP's really doesn't help much to gain bandwidth unless each of the three have their own set of copper wired to the house, and at least in the USA that never happens AFAIK.

It's not so much having a choice of ISP's so much having a choice of last-mile connections to one's house/business. Having multiple ISP's on the same DSL or cable connection isn't bad, it just isn't anywhere near as important in the context being talked about.

P.S. - Now that I've FiOS connected, my DSL option is gone (copper wires are now "turned off" by Verizon even though my DSL ISP wasn't Verizon).

By MrBungle123 on 4/9/2009 1:24:57 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not saying that infrastructure upgrades don't need to be made, but if you get ISP's to start competing with each other the leap frogging and one-up-manship that will take place will achieve the same result without the use of federal dollars.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By drebo on 4/9/2009 1:45:39 PM , Rating: 2
Multiple ISPs absolutely is important, as it introduces competition. In the current market, where ISPs are guaranteed a subscriber base due to geographic monopolies that are government-enforced, there is NO incentive for ISPs to lower prices or upgrade equipment.

Competition causes companies to try and win customers either by lowering prices or providing better service. Right now, there's none of that.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By drebo on 4/9/2009 11:32:58 AM , Rating: 3
I disagree. This is exactly the type of plan the government SHOULD be spending money on. Why? It creates jobs and enhances our nation's infrastructure. Win-win.

What SHOULD be axed is the multitude of entitlement programs that we have. Kill those off and our budget balances almost immediately.

What sickens me the most about society now is that people see it as O.K. for the government to spend trillions of dollars on people who do not contribute to society in any way, shape, or form...yet a (relatively) small project such as this one which has TONS of potential not only to create jobs, but also to lower costs associated with (although not necessary to) living a good quality life, is scoffed at as too expensive.

RE: That all sounds great but...
By Bateluer on 4/9/2009 11:47:26 AM , Rating: 2
I'm torn. But extending broadband service to these under served areas, commercial markets will be extended, thus prompting these people to spend money online, helping out the economy.

I'm not sure how much I like it being government run, but given how ineptly the telco's have managed public money . . .

By shin0bi272 on 4/9/2009 2:09:14 PM , Rating: 3
and congress is better at managing money? Do you remember the house bank? where the members of the house and senate bounced 3800 checks (all but 1 of them were democrats [ahem john mccain]) for thousands of dollars each. They use a system of budgeting called baseline budgeting where each year they raise their spending by 5-10% a year regardless of how much they take in. Id rather have the telco's who can fail on their own merit (if the fascist government lets them fail that is) if they make mistakes. Government just keeps getting bigger and bigger and it's not allowed to fail so it just keeps sucking money from the people to fund its programs until theres no money left to take and we have to start printing more of it and devaluing our dollar. We've already sold over a trillion (thats 1/13th of our GDP) dollars in debt to china and they are out buying up russian oil and aluminum mines with it. You really want a government so inept that the same week an enemy with nuclear weapons launches a long range missile test that it cuts missile defense to run your life?

Run your own life and keep the government out of it!

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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