FCC Chairman Previews National Broadband Plan

"100 Squared" initiative will set target of 100 million U.S. households at 100 megabits per second.

by / February 17, 2010

The National Broadband Plan to be released in March will set a high bar for broadband coverage: 100 million households at 100 megabits per second (Mbps), with broadband adoption as a whole at 90 percent.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski set the targets in remarks Tuesday at the National Association of regulatory Utility Commissioners NARUC Conference in Washington, D.C., during which he laid out a broader preview of what will be in the National Broadband Plan.

Genachowski said the nation needs to significantly increase broadband adoption rates (currently at 65 percent, he said) as well as build out high-speed broadband.

"And we should stretch beyond 100 megabits. The U.S. should lead the world in ultra high-speed broadband test beds as fast, or faster, than anywhere in the world," he said.

Reaching that goal will require the U.S. to surpass broadband investments made by other countries -- at a cost of tens or hundreds of billions of dollars, analysts say. Genachowski said the broadband plan will recommend that the federal government encourage public-private partnerships and utilize "government rights of way and conduits" to make building broadband cheaper.

Progress seems to be in the works. The Obama administration is in the process of awarding $7.2 billion in Recovery Act broadband stimulus funds, and Genachowski cited Google's announcement last week that the company will build one-gigabit high-speed networks in selected cities.

A report called Next Generation Connectivity released this month from Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet & Society found that "several countries have invested over the long term as a strategic choice rather than as a stimulus measure," including countries like Sweden, South Korea and Japan that are ahead of the United States in average broadband speed.

"These countries have spent substantially more, in public spending on a per capita
basis than the U.S. has appropriated for stimulus funding," according to the Berkman study. "On the other hand, there are models of high-performing countries, like France, that invested almost nothing directly, and instead relied almost exclusively on private investment fostered by a competitive environment."

Various studies have ranked the U.S. in the teens among countries worldwide for average broadband speed, at an average of 2 to 5 Mbps.


Matt Williams Associate Editor