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America’s 2020 Broadband Vision

February 17th, 2010 by Julius Genachowski - Chairman, Federal Communications Commission.

In a month, the Federal Communications Commission will deliver a National Broadband Plan, as it was asked to do by Congress and the President in the Recovery Act. 

This will be a meaningful plan for U.S. global leadership in high-speed Internet to create jobs and spur economic growth; to unleash new waves of innovation and investment; and to improve education, health care, energy efficiency, public safety, and the vibrancy of our democracy. 

I believe this plan is vitally important to America’s future. 

Studies from the Brookings Institute, MIT, the World Bank, and others all tell us the same thing -- that even modest increases in broadband adoption can yield hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Broadband empowers small businesses to compete and grow and will ensure that the jobs and industries of tomorrow are created in the United States. 

The economic benefits of broadband go hand-in-hand with social benefits and the potential for vast improvements in the quality of life for all Americans. 

The National Broadband Plan will describe concrete ways in which broadband can be a part of 21st century solutions to some of our nation’s most pressing challenges, including:

  • Extending the availability and lowering the costs of quality care by putting digital health tools in the hands of doctors and hospitals across the country and removing geographic barriers for patient treatment.  
  • Providing our kids with a world class, 21st century education, connecting them to the global library and giving them the digital skills they need for the future.
  • Making our electric grid smart and efficient and providing Americans with the information they need to make their homes and buildings smarter.  
  • Ensuring that law enforcement officers and first responders across the country have cutting-edge, reliable communications technologies to respond to emergencies efficiently and effectively. 

These are real benefits for real people -- like the unemployed forty-seven-year-old I met in the Bronx who got job training over the Internet to become a telecom technician. And the employees of Blue Valley Meats, in the small town of Diller, Nebraska, which doubled its workforce and saw 40 percent growth by setting up a website and selling its beef online -- once Diller got broadband. 

But right now, we are at a crossroads. For while the United States invented the Internet, when it comes to broadband we are lagging behind where we should be.

Roughly 14 million Americans do not have access to broadband, and more than 100 million Americans who could and should have broadband don’t. That’s an adoption rate of roughly 65 percent of U.S. households, compared with 88 percent adoption in Singapore, and 95 percent adoption in South Korea. The U.S. adoption rate is even lower among low-income, minority, rural, tribal, and disabled households.

This country can and must do better.  In today’s global economy, leading the world in broadband is leading the world. 

This is where the National Broadband Plan comes in.  By setting ambitious goals and laying out proposals to connect all Americans to a world-class broadband infrastructure, we will help secure our country’s global competitiveness for generations to come.

The FCC’s National Broadband Plan will include the following key recommendations:

  • 100 Squared Initiative: 100 million households at a minimum of 100 megabits per second (Mbs) -- the world’s largest market of high-speed broadband users -- to ensure that new businesses are created in America and stay in America.
  • Broadband Testbeds: Encourage the creation of ultra high-speed broadband testbeds as fast, or faster, than any Internet service in the world, so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow’s ideas and industries.
  • Digital Opportunities: Expand digital opportunities by moving our adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent and making sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school. 

The quantitative and qualitative benefits of these proposals -- and the many others that the FCC’s plan will contain -- are vast.  Connecting the country to higher speeds means more jobs, more innovation, and more economic growth.

The National Broadband Plan will chart a clear path forward -- ensuring that broadband is our enduring engine for creating jobs and growing our economy, for spreading knowledge and enhancing civic engagement, for advancing a healthier, sustainable way of life.

Pursuing the opportunity of universal broadband is, I believe, a universal goal. Our technology future is one that we can -- and must -- create together.

[Cross-posted on the White House Blog and Blogband.]

14 Responses to “America’s 2020 Broadband Vision”

  1. Lisa M. Snider says:

    Dear Julius, I am a big fan of this. In-fact I just wrote a blog recently that addresses this same topic!

    I have a dream... To be secure within this insecure world. I am a single mother, currently unemployed struggling to secure a new position. I am enrolled to begin pursuing an EMBA from RIT. If it were not for the advancements there is no way this would be possible.

    I fear for those who have "missed the boat" so to speak who are not online. It has become a major form of communication. I imagine a world where WiFi will be available throughout the country in similarity to radio waves.

    Please continue to drive this support to our community. It is no longer a luxury to access the web, it is a necessity. Please comment on my blog: http://lisasnider.blogspot.com/. I will be tweeting, sharing and supporting!

    I firmly believe in your statement: "The economic benefits of broadband go hand-in-hand with social benefits and the potential for vast improvements in the quality of life for all Americans."

  2. Brett Glass says:

    Chairman Genachowski: As a wireless Internet service provider (the world's first -- still rolling out rural broadband after 18 years) I can tell you that the only reason I and my industry have not already achieved your "100 squared" goals (100 Mbps to 100 million homes) is that the FCC's policies and regulations have not allowed us to do so.

    We could begin the rollout today if we had three things:

    1. Reasonably priced access to the Internet backbone. Right now, any ISP which is not a telephone or cable company, or is not in a densely populated area, has to pay exorbitant, anticompetitive "special access" charges -- which are often 10 times or more as much as they should be -- to obtain Internet bandwidth . These charges drive the total wholesale cost of our bandwidth up to more than $100 per Mbps per month -- sometimes three or four times that. Since no user can afford $10K per month for broadband, this makes a 100 Mbps connection financially infeasible. If the FCC wants users to be able to obtain broadband at a reasonable price at retail, it must guard against price gouging at wholesale. But while it has had a docket open on this issue since 2005 (an eternity in Internet time), it has not acted. And it must, if the goals you state above are to be realized.

    2. Access to spectrum. Today, a flawed auction process has allowed incumbent wireless carriers and spectrum speculators to hoard hundreds of MHz of spectrum which they will not sell for love or money; they are either holding it until prices go up or using it to foreclose competition. Other aspects of the auction process (such as a requirement to pay the full amount immediately at the close of the auction rather than paying for the license yearly) likewise lock out small players, new entrants, and innovators. To backhaul and distribute 100 Mbps to a large number of homes requires several hundred MHz of spectrum. And it's out there -- unused -- in most communities, including my own. But due to FCC policy, I cannot get a license -- for love or money -- to use it. I am thus marooned on the unlicensed "junk" bands, where coverage is limited and reliability and spectral efficiency are severely curtailed by interference. Again, it is within the FCC's power to enable the vision stated above -- but only if it acts to deal with this problem.

    3. Forebearance from unnecessary regulation and micromanagement. Currently, the Commission is engaged in an "open Internet" proceeding in which the proposed rules, if implemented as presented in the NPRM, would actually harm rather than help Internet users and would make it much more difficult to roll out broadband to unserved and underserved areas. (To understand some of the reasons why, see my filing at http://www.brettglass.com/nprmcomment.pdf or my earlier testimony at http://www.brettglass.com/FCC/remarks.html). Potential investors in my Internet provider have been scared away by the proposed rules, which they believe could make it infeasible for me to continue in business. If I and my colleagues are to realize the vision of ubiquitous high speed broadband deployment, we must be able to obtain capital -- and to do this we must not be exposed to the regulatory uncertainty inherent in vague rules (e.g., case-by-case determinations of "reasonable network management"), unnecessary restrictions on innovation (see my filing on the NPRM for examples), or the crushing regulatory burden of Title II regulation. As you mentioned in your speech to Congress on September 27, 2009, "When the market works and there is sufficient competition, then the FCC has no need to act. When the market isn't working, and the consumers could benefit from policies to promote competition, then the Commission MUST act." I support and agree with this statement 100%. If the Commission regulates in areas where there is market failure -- such as "special access" -- rather than areas where there is not a problem for regulation to solve, it will indeed foster innovation, competition, and benefits to consumers.

    I would love to speak further with you about these issues, and about how the industry which I pioneered -- see my slides at http://www.brettglass.com/Unserved for an explanation of why we are the most cost-effective way to reach sparsely populated areas with broadband -- can help to realize the vision laid out above. If you would like to meet with me and a group of other WISPs regarding these matters, please have your assistant, Maria Gaglio, contact me to set up a meeting. While none of us has the market capitalization of Google (which has met with you on multiple occasions), we have the drive, geographic reach, and technical savvy to realize your 100x100 goal... if the FCC enables us to do so.

    Brett Glass
    Owner and Founder, LARIAT
    The world's first wireless ISP (WISP)
    brett (remove this and insert an "at" sign) lariat.net

  3. Guest says:

    But, at what cost?

  4. William Duck says:

    In many cases, broadband is unavailable due to restrictive monopolies approved by local government. Comcast is the only cable provider allowed in my county (Wicomico) in Maryland - yet they refuse to wire 40% of the county. No other cable provider is allowed to provide competition, and there is no legal recourse to force Comcast to offer service.Other services, like Verizon's FiOS, doesn't come within 75 miles of my hometown.

    The service providers are often to blame - cherry-picking desirable locations and leaving those they choose not to provide service with no suitable alternative.

  5. Guest says:

    I would love to see broadband to everyone. I am in a rural area and satellite is not the best answer either as the connection speeds drop by half during peak hours are everyone shares the satellite feed. Sometimes dial up would be faster. I could get a T-1 connection but would be $450 a month for the cabled access. Definately interrested in hearing the plan and freeing me from satellite and dialup.

  6. Gerald says:

    There are plenty of options for getting High Speed Internet available to everyone in the USA. Don't be stupid and spend more of our tax-payers money. Nobody has a god-given right to High Speed Internet or Broadband Vision. Let the communications people lay the fiberoptic cable at their own expense

  7. Guest says:

    This is wonderful for people in my community. The local telephone company refuses to upgrade their equipment so we can get DSL, and blames distance/cost issues. A cable company is no where in sight and many of us are in a "dead zone" for cell phone/data coverage. Our only choice is satellite. I have been using satellite for two years and have found it surprisingly slow, frequently blocked by rain or thick clouds, and very costly.

    Thank you FCC!

  8. Guest says:

    I agree at what cost?
    Will it work around the Monopolies? Let the market compete.
    Just having a plan does nothing to educate the masses on what broadband is and how it works.
    The tech gurus understand how they can take advantage of broadband and create applications for different industries and profit from it, the masses will end up paying for the service and putting their private information out on the internet for the spammers and hackers to take advantage of without the correct protection. Educate the users, give them a level playing field, help them become secure, provide them alternatives to service providers.

  9. Guest says:

    This is fine if it comes to pass naturally, but it's wrong to force this on American through rule making and policy overhaul. It's not the same as lighting homes a century ago. It seems more likely about profit generating, including for industries who will grab more public spectrum and sale our kids more digital junk. What's next? No more free over-the-air TV because the spectrum will be taken away so we can pay to watch movies on wrist watch? Slow down. I'm 40. I don't own a cellphone. I don't social network. I use a computer for work, period. Some surveys suggest that many Americans don't want to "adopt" to a high-speed internet world because they know, clearly, that it will not benfit them, yet they will pay for those who will benefit and profit. Turn off your computers and enjoy the sunshine outside. thanks.

  10. Guest says:



    "making sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school". That's right, kids won't kids won't adapt to the internet unless government subsidies are involved.

    Is there any aspect of American life that is not going to be subject to top down control by the Federal government?

  11. Guest says:

    The plan seems to place great faith in the private marketplace, and particularly large cable and wireless providers, to bring it about through increased competition. Well, that hasn't worked out so well, has it? Our broadband is both expensive and slow compared to much of the advanced world. The plan seems to promise a free lunch -- faster service, universal coverage, reduced cost...all because companies like Comcast and Verizon will make it so.

    That's not worked out well so far. How is there going to be sufficient competition to truly bring down costs and provide better service? Not much in this lengthy plan explains how this will come about. And, what, exactly, is the killer application for mobile broadband as opposed to robust fixed broadband, finding the nearest Chinese restaurant?

    I think this plan lacks a lot of the hard detail on both the "how" and the "why" as well as the 'who pays."

  12. Guest says:

    From: James Edwin Whedbee

    To: FCC Chairman Genachowski

    Re: National Broadband Plan

    Dear Mr. Chairman:

    Thank you for this excellent forum. I genuinely hope you and the 8th floor folks at FCC really do read these instead of allowing us to vent here. Sir, I wonder if the broadband people honestly 'get it' that TV and LPTV broadcasters can already do everything this broadband plan wants to do, pursuant to Sections 73.624(c) and 74.790(i) of the Commission's rules under our authority to provide 'ancillary and supplementary services.'

    You and the FCC do not need to revamp the entire spectrum, just encourage the broadbanders and broadcasters to make equipment which works together! We also have 'must carry' rights with cable (unless in the next rulemaking you snatch that away from us). This gives us 100% of the infrastructure needed to completely execute the national broadband plan without reinventing the wheel. Accordingly, before the FCC engages in what amounts to condemnation by regulation of the broadcast industry, please take a look at what's already before you and make those wanting to make inroads work with us. In advance...

    Thank you!

    /s./ James Edwin Whedbee, M.Ed.

  13. Per-Ola says:

    I live in a community on the West Coast where we have "good" service, but even here, in a very affluent community, competition is limited.

    Yes Comcast is here, so is VZ FiOS (but in the process of selling out to Frontier) and we have ClearWire. So, we have more than most - but it still is not really good. There is NO real competition, services are "bundled" that drives up the "actual" price.

    I really do not know HOW to fix it, but compared to Europe we are way behind - and we are getting more behind every day.

    In i.e. Sweden, private/public partnerships have really helped build out networks in a large and scarcely populated country, now even offering 1Gbit/s connections in some metropolitan areas. With good guidance from FCC, maybe something similar would work here. It has to start with better planning on all levels to bring costs down. When a city digs up the streets for new sewer, put down conduits for future fiber players. That would both reduce the cost for new providers, as well as prevent yet more overhead lines, or having streets dug up streets. Cities could lease these "pipes" to the providers at a very low fee - cheaper for both parties.

  14. Guest says:

    What makes the government think it is qualified to oversee our internet service?
    Is anyone else getting sick of govt in our lives???

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