US to set minimum broadband speed of 100Mbits/sec

The US Federal Communications Commission has unveiled a plan that would require ISPs to offer minimum home connection speeds by 2020.

US to set minimum broadband speed of 100Mbits/sec

The FCC wants service providers to offer home transmission speeds of 100Mbits/sec to 100 million homes by a decade from now. Industry estimates generally put average US Internet speeds at below 4 Mbits/sec.

The proposal is part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, due next month. It comes a week after Google rattled ISPs with its plan to build a super-fast internet network.

Some providers have derided the FCC’s plan. “One hundred meg is just a dream,” says Qwest Communications International Inc Chief Executive Edward Mueller. “We couldn’t afford it.”

The US should lead the world in ultra high-speed testbeds as fast or faster than anywhere in the world

“First, we don’t think the customer wants that. Secondly, if Google has invented some technology, we’d love to partner with them,” said Mueller.

AT&T, the top broadband provider among US telecommunications carriers, said the FCC should resist calls for “extreme forms of regulation that would cripple, if not destroy, the very investments needed to realise its goal.”

Verizon, the third-largest provider, and one that has a more advanced network than many competitors, said it has completed successful trials of 100Mbits/sec and higher through its fiber-optic FiOS network.

“(One gigabit per second) as discussed in current news reports is a lot of signal; typically enough for many massive business operations,” Verizon said in a statement. “But we could make it happen over the FiOS network without much trouble, should a market for it develop.”

Sustainable speeds?

One analyst questioned whether the FCC’s proposal could lead to a sustainable business model. “In order to earn a return for investors, you have to be conscious of what consumers will pay. I don’t know this is something consumers will pay for,” Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Larsen said. “It’s a nice goal, but it’s a little on the over ambitious side.”

The FCC has offered few details on the plan and how it would get providers to reach the minimum speeds. It claims the goal is to transform the US into the world’s largest market of very high-speed internet users.

Commission chairman Julius Genachowski said speedier internet services would help create jobs and economic growth. “Despite significant private investment and some strong strides over the last decade, America’s broadband ecosystem is not nearly as robust as it needs to be,” he said.

The US is ranked 19th in broadband speed, trailing Japan, Korea and France, according to a 2008 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

“We should stretch beyond 100 megabits,” Genachowski said. “The US should lead the world in ultra high-speed testbeds as fast or faster than anywhere in the world.”

The FCC wants to use the universal service fund, a US subsidy program for low-income families to gain access to phone service, to get more people high-speed internet access.

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