New survey finds gaps in U.S. broadband

MARCH 20, 2008 -- In a new survey commissioned by Tellabs, 94% of respondents are dissatisfied with the current FCC definition of broadband as 200 Kbits/sec. In fact, 84% of respondents believe that a better definition of broadband is a service that can deliver high-quality streaming video.

MARCH 20, 2008 -- Sixty-five million Americans depend on broadband services for work, education, entertainment, and communications. But too many other Americans have no access to broadband services, according to a new telecom industry survey, commissioned by Tellabs (search for Tellabs).

Aggravating the country's broadband gap is the current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) definition of broadband, 200 Kbits/sec per second (See "FCC releases data on high-speed services for Internet access"). At that rate, it takes longer to download a movie than to watch it. Tellabs' survey reflects responses from 451 readers of leading U.S. telecom publications.

Expanding availability

Respondents strongly support expanding broadband availability in the United States, especially in under-served rural areas. The lack of broadband availability, whether due to geographic or economic reasons, hurts productivity.

• 89% of respondents think lack of broadband access hurts an individual's educational, productivity, and employment potential.
• 81% think America should use some of the current Universal Service Fund to expand rural broadband.
• 79% think where you live should not dictate broadband availability.
• 77% think economic status should not determine broadband availability.

"I find this survey of the telecom industry's perspective stimulating and insightful," notes Ron Westfall, research director at Current Analysis (search for ). "A more accurate definition of what broadband is only helps elevate the debate and better frames the serious challenges we face. And whatever industry solution is eventually worked out, it's obvious the telecom industry will have a central role to play in further expanding access and the services that run over broadband access," he contends.

Redefining broadband

Industry professionals called for a new definition of broadband. An overwhelming 94% of respondents said that the current FCC definition of broadband does not deliver a true broadband experience. In fact, 84% of respondents feel that a better definition of broadband is a service that can deliver high-quality streaming video.    

Broadband plays a critical role in U.S. productivity, innovation, and economic growth. The United States ranks 15th globally in broadband penetration measured against population, according to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

• 84% of respondents think that the United States trailing so many other nations in broadband penetration is a serious problem.
• 93% think broadband is essential for continued Web 2.0 innovation.

"We already have the technology and the business infrastructure to take America's broadband capabilities into the next generation and make this country the world leader in the provisioning of ultra high bandwidth services," reports Joe Savage, president of the Fiber-to-the-Home Council (search for ). "Indeed, the deployment of these services is already under way, with more than 2.5 million American homes now connected directly into high-speed fiber networks. But we need to ensure that national, state, and local policies encourage, and do not inhibit, every community's progress toward the high-bandwidth future that is so important to our economic competitiveness," Savage maintains.

"Broadband is crucial for keeping America competitive educationally and economically," adds Dan Kelly, executive vice president for global products for Tellabs. "There's no reason why the United States should trail other countries when it comes to broadband penetration. Our industry sees the clear need to expand broadband availability for all Americans."

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