FCC plans for speedy broadband service to 100M households

U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski on Tuesday laid out some details, including an ambitious "100 Squared" initiative, that will be part of the agency's National Broadband Plan that it will send to Congress in March.

The "100 Squared" plan aims to bring 100Mbit/sec Internet service to 100 million homes. Genachowski generally said that the broadband plan outlines a vision to be reached by 2020, but he did not specify that the 100 Squared plan should be achieved by then.

Genachowski said that goal should just be the beginning. "And we should stretch beyond 100 megabits. The U.S. should lead the world in ultra-high-speed broadband testbeds as fast, or faster, than anywhere in the world," he said in a speech delivered to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners Conference on Tuesday. The text of his remarks was released to the public.

Currently, the U.S. lags behind many other developed nations that have greater broadband penetration rates and offer people higher data rates.

The chairman pointed to Google's recent announcement that it planned to build a fiber network that will bring 1GB/sec broadband service to 50,000 to 500,000 people. "We need others to drive competition to invent the future," Genachowski said.

The National Broadband Plan will also recommend changing the Universal Service Fund so that in the future it will support broadband services. The fund currently helps very-low-income people pay for phone service.

He said the plan will include a number of other recommendations including improving the E-Rate program, which brings the Internet to schools and libraries; adding thousands of clinics to the FCC's rural telemedicine program; working on freeing up spectrum for mobile broadband services; and creating a public safety network that interoperates among various agencies.

Genachowski has high hopes for what broadband can do. "The economic benefits of broadband go hand in hand with social benefits and the potential for vast improvements in the quality of life of all Americans," he said.

While the details that he touched on sound promising, delivering on them may prove challenging. It's unclear how the FCC plans to ensure that 100 million households get 100Mbit/sec broadband access. Operators in the U.S. have been slow, compared to their counterparts in other regions, to deliver such high-speed data rates.

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