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WHAT is Broadband in the U.S.?

August 31, 2005 - 1 Comment

In a previous blog entry on the state of broadband penetration in the US I lamented the fact that according to the ITU we have fallen in broadband penetration in the past year as measured by broadband per 100 inhabitants. We are, in fact, the largest broadband nation in the world by number of subscribers NTIA chief Michael Gallagher reminded us at a Cisco conference yesterday. He also said that broadband is the second fastest adopted technology in the US other than color television. I didn’t have a chance to speak with him after his talk, but the question I have is: are we still measuring broadband at 200kbps? That was the latest FCC definition of broadband. In my humble opinion (I am not a technologist, but an avid user of all things broadband), 200K and $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee. 200K definition comes from FCC’s 4th report “Availability of Advanced Telecommunications Capability in the United States” to Congress (issued September 2004), which you can read here…or here: (Page 12)

LET’S RAISE THE BAR!! I understand that to those without connectivity 200Kpbs would seem acceptable, but to those of us who generally live in the “truer” broadband world 200K is embarassing to measure as broadband. Sure, we have to keep up with the Jones’ (or Swedes or Koreans or Japanese, etc.) in terms of measurement with broadband…we’re #1 or we’re #16 and falling or whatever, but let’s measure true broadband or “next generation” broadband or whatever you want to call it as well. Let’s measure 10Mbps or 100Mbps or both! Let’s see where we really are in terms of getting broadband access out there at speeds that are meaningful. Internet access is a step, so too is 200Kpbs, but the real step is when you are talking multiple megabits. Let’s redefine broadand and see where we really are in true broadband penetration…IMHO…I vote for “next generation” broadband being defined at 10Mbps (which, truth be told, would be standard in some of our “competitor” nations). I’ll even throw out a “fast” broadband measurement of 100Mbps. Where are we on these speeds that truly matter?

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  1. The US lags in speed, availability, and value, compared to a country like Japan, where most residents can pay $30 a month for 50Mbps fiber connections to the Internet. But without accurate data on US broadband, neither the government nor private industry will be able to put forward a comprehensive national broadband plan. Problems with the FCC’s broadband data collection methodology have been well-known for years, and Congress is finally poised to step in and tell the agency how to fix the problem. The Broadband Census of America Act, currently in draft form, asks the FCC to increase its broadband threshold speed from 200Kbps to 2Mbps and to stop claiming that a ZIP code has broadband access if even a single resident in that ZIP code does.