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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: 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.

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