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By 2020, the National Broadband Plan calls for 100 million homes to have 100Mbps Internet access, and the US should have the world’s largest “ultra-high-speed broadband testbeds.” In addition, Internet adoption rates should hit at least 90 percent—way up from the current 65 percent.
Broadband will also become a universal service like the telephone system of old—and FCC Chairman Julius Genachoswki promised that even baseline service would be faster than the 1-2Mbps currently pushed by other countries.
Genachowski provided a preview of the soon-to-be-unveiled National Broadband Plan to a meeting of state regulators gathered in DC. After months in which we’ve heard only about modest targets and worthy but mediocre goals for the NBP, Genachowski made clear that the final plan would push for “ambitious but achievable” results…
But the marquee piece of the plan will be the call for 100 million US households to use 100Mbps broadband connections by 2020. When it comes to availability, this is not actually an ambitious goal. Verizon’s FiOS already passes 12.2 million homes and could easily scale past 100Mbps today if the company wanted to do so (the company said today that it can “currently” deliver “up to 400Mbps to all customers” if it so desired). Cable already offers high-speed Internet to 120 million US homes, and inexpensive DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades have already brought 50Mbps and 100Mbps speeds to millions.
The real issue here is not availability, but uptake. Of the 12.2 million homes passed by FiOS, for instance, only 3.43 million have subscribed to the service. And, while cable already reaches millions with blazing speeds, most people are still taking much slower speed tiers. If the FCC wants to get people to use high-speed services, it needs to encourage more price competition so that we can get the sort of speed/price equation already seen in places like Hong Kong…
For Genachowski, broadband isn’t transformative in the way that interstates were transformative. No, this is bigger—think electricity—and building broadband pipes is “our generation’s great infrastructure challenge.”
The American tradition of government functioning exclusively on behalf of corporate wealth is now challenged by a flea’s worth of backbone. If the Telecom/Cable barons are a brown bear, Genachowski is a flea on the hide of a very small dog barking at that bear.
Though I reject kneejerk agreement with the dilettantes of “the big blogs” – automatic cynicism is pretty easy. Verizon, Comcast, Time-Warner and their ilk will call in all their markers among tame Congress-critters to oppose any meaningful legislation enabling mandatory line-sharing.
OTOH, not since the days of Fair Use [remember that?] have we had a White House and an FCC Chairman willing to broach topics reeking of so much economic democracy.