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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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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....

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