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FCC broadband plan official: 100Mbps homes, 1Gbps schools

updated 02:30 pm EDT, Mon March 15, 2010

FCC National Broadband Plan details expansion

Hinted at this weekend, the FCC today outlined its National Broadband Plan (PDF). The initiative plans to increase both the reach and speed of Internet access across the US by 2020 and would center on 100 Squared, a plan to get at least 100 million homes on "affordable" 100Mbps access. However, it would also promise at least 1Gbps to "anchor institutions" like hospitals and schools.

The plan would also give out 500MHz of extra spectrum for both cellular carriers and unlicensed use, create a wireless public safety network for fire, medical and police crews.

The expansion would aim to fill in the gaps of accessibility in the country. About 100 million Americans don't have access at all, and about 14 million of those simply have no choice, the FCC said. By 2020, the agency hopes to have 90 percent of homes using broadband and to ensure that all children are "digitally literate" before they graduate from high school.

At least some of the cost would be offset by gradually changing the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes analog phone lines, into a pool for subsidizing Internet access.

How the plan will be received isn't known. Carriers have often resisted any attempt to make them service rural or otherwise less profitable markets. However, some like AT&T have embraced the 100Mbps plan as it gives them a goal as well as a way to reach more subscribers. It and other cell providers have also urged the FCC to provide more wireless spectrum and thus to avoid oversaturation from devices like the iPhone.

By Electronista Staff
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  1. cmoney

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Sep 2000


    Minimum throughput

    Do the spec out minimum throughput? Because my "20" mbps home line would be perfectly fast...if I actually got 20mbps on a regular basis.

  1. dliup

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2006



    There is THAT much demand for p***?

    Yeah pretty much. Unless you are going to stream HD apps, there is no need for that much bandwidth for most households.

  1. SgtBaxter

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Dec 2009


    Such shortsightedness.

    @ dliup - 5 years ago there was no reason for a home to have a 20Mbps line either.

    As online apps flourish, by the time 2020 rolls around, 100Mbps is going to seem about as adequate as a 512K DSL line today. Let's not forget there are a great amount of people who's only access is dialup or satellite - which will throttle you to dialup speeds rather quickly. Those people are the ones this plan needs to address the most.

  1. dliup

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2006



    Well I do use my connection. I bet I am in the top 5% of bandwidth users.

    With the connection at the current speed, even HD content or steam games can be transferred at a faster speed than I can consume.

    For businesses maybe, because many are stuck on adsl, but for home users on fios, they don't really need anything faster for years.

    With computer power increasing, computers can handle compress and decompression better than transferring uncompressed file over the web.

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001



    That's the thing: Your media options are, in general terms, text, pictures, audio, video, "HD" video, 3D video, and games.

    Dialup was fast enough for text, slow but usable for pictures, barely adequate for audio, and essentially worthless for video.

    ~1Mbit DSL is fast enough for text, pictures, audio, and most games, but barely adequate for video.

    ~5-10Mbit DSL is fast enough for text, pictures, audio, most video, and games, and barely adequate for HD video and 3D video (though I'm a little skeptical of how popular that's going to be).

    It's gotten to the point that between much, MUCH better compression technologies that there's not that much more to add--it's not like there's some new area of rich media that's been held back by the lack of available bandwidth. Even HD video is only about 4x the bandwidth of good SD and 3D will only double that.

    What's more of interest to true rich media/cloud applications is the UPSTREAM speed. Give me a 1Gbit down connection and it's going to be just as slow as a modern connection for web apps and useless for large-scale online storage if I only have 1Mbit up.

    Also, I sure hope I get some benefit from this; I live in an area that you'd consider relatively isolated and rural, though it's a decent sized town. We have exactly two options for internet: 6Mbit (max) DSL from AT&T, or 8Mbit (good luck getting that) from Suddenlink cable, which is notoriously unreliable. That's almost exactly the same as what was available five years ago. I'd love to have Fios or any other high-bandwidth option, but they just don't service unprofitable areas like mine.

  1. Arty50

    Mac Elite

    Joined: May 2000


    @ dliup and Makosuke

    Your argument assumes that only one person is streaming HD content in a given home. Remember that residential broadband connections often serve families. So imagine mom and dad are watching one stream in the living room, little Johnny is watching another is his, and little Suzy is watching another in hers. That will quickly tax a connection that is otherwise adequate for one person.

    Also, in 20 years we're going to be talking about 4x 1080p. And by then Blu-ray will be dead, and everything is going to be streaming.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    more important

    How much is this going to cost the taxpayer? And how much profit are the carriers going to be taking in from the USF, like they do now for telephone usage on that? And how long before this thing becomes another in a series of political powder kegs, with one side complaining about invading free markets and the other side complaining about fairness to all?

    And when does this all get put on indefinite hold when some Senator from Alabama says he will block it until changes are made so that all internet traffic has to go through his state before it goes to it's destination?

  1. bjojade

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2007


    100 million have no access?

    Out of 300 million people, 100 million have no internet access? I find this hard to believe.

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