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(BBCnews) US regulators have unveiled the nation’s first plan to give every American super-fast broadband by 2020.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which will now submit the plan to Congress, said broadband was the “greatest infrastructure challenge”. It estimates that one-third of Americans, about 100 million people, are without broadband at home.
The FCC’s goal is to provide speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), compared to an average 4Mbps now. “Broadband for every American is not too ambitious a plan and it is absolutely necessary,” former FCC chairman Reed Hundt told BBC News. “The consequences of not succeeding are heartbreaking. Every nation needs a common medium to gather around and to have the internet as a common medium where a third are left out is unacceptable.”
WHAT GOVERNMENT WILL DO
- Connect 100 million homes to super-fast broadband with speeds up to 100 megabits per second.
- Allocate spectrum to allow network updates for wireless broadband
- Increase adoption rates to 90% and make sure every child is digitally literate before they leave school
- Encourage greater competition among providers to make prices cheaper and deals easier to understand
- Use digital switch-over fund to bring cheap broadband to rural areas
- Provide one gigabit broadband to schools, hospitals and military installations
The executive summary revealed that access to high-speed internet services had grown dramatically from eight million Americans 20 years ago to nearly 200 million today. Estimates to implement the plan have been put at $350bn (£233bn). How that bill will be split between private investment and tax dollars is not known.
For years the technology industry has pushed for the US government to create a national broadband plan. Ahead of today’s meeting with Congress, a number of hi-tech companies wrote to Mr Genachowski to praise the plan. “Broadband is critical to America’s long-term economic and social well-being. As society increasingly moves online, the costs of digital exclusion grow as well,” said the signatories of the letter, which included Cisco, Sony, Salesforce, Microsoft, Facebook and Intel.
One possible battleground is expected to be over the sale of spectrum that is mostly in the hands of television broadcasters. Mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon have said they will need more spectrum in future to provide superfast reliable internet connections to every customer.
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Author: Maggie Shiels