The FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, stated on the 18th of January, that he wanted to see gigabit speed broadband services in all 50 states by 2015. During a meeting of US mayors in Washington DC, Genachowski called on municipal leaders and service providers to deploy Gigabit broadband networks in every state within the next two years. Doing this would create valuable jobs for citizens and would help turn cities into innovation hubs.
The Chairman said during his speech, “American economic history teaches a clear lesson about infrastructure. If you build it, innovation will come. The U.S. needs a critical mass of gigabit communities nationwide so that innovators can develop next-generation applications and services that will drive economic growth and global competitiveness.”
Gigabit installations can have dramatic improvements on communities with failing job markets. Areas without high speed connections offer little to no incentive to larger companies looking to relocate, and force growing companies to move to a new location. For communication to work in this day and age, a very fast connection is needed, and if isn’t offered, they will go somewhere else. Communities can benefit from Fiber investment, such as Chattanooga, TN, that gained 3,700 jobs from Amazon and Volkswagen after deploying fiber.
America has fallen behind when it comes to our network infrastructure (we are in 16th place to be exact). If you look at our average speeds compared to countries like Germany, Japan and even Slovenia, it is quite depressing. Only a few areas in the U.S. offer speeds comparable to the rest of the world. So why are we so far behind? Many say it’s because we lack the drive and ambition we had during the 40’s. Others say it’s because unlike many of these other countries, we didn’t suffer major damage during World War 2, offering us a chance to lay the groundwork for future technologies when rebuilding.
Major ISPs like Comcast and Time Warner simply feel it’s not worth the money to invest in “Fiberhoods.” If they build them, and no one subscribes to the services, it would be a lost investment. It becomes an endless argument as ISPs say “We won’t build it till there are businesses here that will subscribe to it” and businesses say “We won’t move there unless they have a fiber connection setup for us to use.” ISPs are unwilling to take the risk that is involved with a major rollout of Fiber, and those who are, like Verizon, are only doing it in new housing tracts so it reduces install costs. Google has started running Fiber for much cheaper prices in certain test cities, and we can only hope they are successful.
Some say that the ISPs shouldn’t have a say in it, as they were already given tax breaks and even more valuable tax credits with the promise to upgrade our infrastructure, and it never happened. In the 90’s America led the world in high speed connections, now we are a shadow of our former self. Japan’s connections run at approximately 100Mbps up and down for about $40 a month. In the U.S. (except in a few areas with fiber) the best connections offer 1/3 of that speed at least 200% of the cost if not more. ISPs claim that almost all Americans have access to broadband, but the FCC defines broadband as any connection over 200 Kbps. Anyone who has used a 200Kbps connection knows it is anything but fast. You could barely load a webpage with graphics at that speed, much less run a corporation on it. Its estimated that ISP’s received a total of 200 billion dollars in tax breaks and increased service fees, all in the name of “upgrading the infrastructure” since the 1990’s. Yet we are still getting connections that are 1/3rd that of the rest of the world, and those who can get fiber connections are paying 400%-600% more than other countries. Keep in mind; this was all supposed to be done by the year 2000.
Will the push by Chairman Genachowski make the ISPs work harder to upgrade our infrastructure? Only time will tell. We can only watch projects like Google Fiber and see if they succeed. If they do, other ISPs will have to participate or risk losing customers. It’s time to start acting like America, and be in the top, not in 16th place.