JUNE 10, 2009 -- The economic stimulus legislation enacted earlier this year has provided the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with a "rare opportunity" to set forth a grand plan for broadband infrastructure that will help maintain U.S. economic leadership for the rest of this century, according to comments filed by the Fiber-to-the-Home Council (search Lightwave for FTTH Council) with the FCC.
The document, recently provided in response to the FCC's notice of inquiry on a national broadband plan for the United States, calls on the commission to act boldly and set forth the goal of universal access to very high-speed, all-fiber networks. "By doing so, it will expand our social and economic horizons and provide enormous benefits for all Americans," the council wrote.
"Because of their demands for an ever-expanding array of video-based and other large-file content and applications, American consumers are already beginning to demand and will certainly require shortly fixed access infrastructure supporting broadband services with transmissions at speeds of at least 100 megabits per second bidirectionally -- and that these needs will continue to burgeon," the council said in the filing.
The council said that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's (ARRA) new broadband programs and the directive to the commission to establish a national broadband plan provide "an opportunity to establish objectives and specific policies that will enable us to ensure universal access to 21st century broadband infrastructure and services, meeting the rapidly increasing bandwidth demands of broadband users and achieving the President's objective of promoting next-generation [broadband] facilities."
The council added that all-fiber access networks are the ideal medium for such transmissions now and, because of the ease by which they can be upgraded, in the future.
It also noted that universal access to the nation's copper and analog network was achieved in the last century through a mixture of government-sanctioned monopoly private enterprise and a variety of subsidy programs overseen by the government. Given the existing consensus that telecommunications networks need to be upgraded to much higher bandwidth capacity in order to handle expanding demand for it, the FTTH Council said, "just as before, we need to marshal a mixture of private sector and government forces to achieve that aim."
Specifically, the council proposed adopting policies providing for tax incentives for most areas that do not have access to 100-Mbps networks; grants for unserved and underserved areas; the removal of public barriers to deployments; and grants for education, training, and awareness to further stimulate demand.
The council warned that on broadband upgrades, the United States has been lagging other countries, which are recognizing that advanced broadband infrastructure is fundamental to their ability to foster business development and economic growth. As the most recent example, it pointed to Australia, which has announced a program to spend $31 billion to bring FTTH -- with Internet access at 100 Mbps -- to 90% of the nation's households and workplaces in the next eight years.
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