MARCH 8, 2007 -- Underscoring the importance of higher bandwidth to the United States' future competitiveness, the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council (search for FTTH Council) has called on the U.S. Government to adopt a "100 Megabit Nation" policy aimed at ensuring that next-generation broadband connections are universally available by 2015.
The FTTH Council proposes that Congress and the President act by the end of this year to adopt a strategy and timetable for clearing the way for all Americans to gain access to communication services at transmission speeds exceeding 100 Mbits/sec. While today's technology is capable of providing the bandwidth, the broadband services currently available to the overwhelming majority of Americans do not exceed 5 Mbits/sec, according to the council.
The FTTH Council's recommendation includes the goal of extending, through both private and public sector initiatives, affordable next-generation broadband to a majority of Americans by 2010, with universal availability by 2015.
"When it comes to broadband, America has the need for speed, the need to compete, and the technology at-hand to make it all happen," says FTTH Council president Joe Savage. "If we are to preserve our global leadership in the information age, we must look beyond our current broadband capabilities and begin moving now toward next-generation networks with vastly superior capabilities than are widely available today. We can start doing that now by establishing a national broadband strategy."
Savage notes that recent investments by large network operators have shown that a 100-Mbit goal is achievable and that such speeds are very much needed. With consumers accessing increasing amounts of video from the Internet, the US is facing "a deluge of bandwidth-consuming applications."
"Telephone and cable providers are deploying deep-fiber networks delivering far more bandwidth than before -- often multimegabits in both directions. And forward-looking phone companies, municipalities, and new home developers are deploying next-generation networks," Savage says. "But at the present rate of build-out it's not going to be enough to keep up with America's growing demand for higher-bandwidth applications such as teleconferencing, telemedicine, video sharing, and a whole range of information and entertainment services that will be developed over the next few years."
He adds that "a 100 Megabit Nation may seem like a luxury today," but it will become a necessity soon enough. "We've got to work now to bring down the barriers that are hindering access to higher bandwidth."
International competitiveness is a key consideration, according to the council.
"Other nations are deploying lightning-fast broadband networks that have the potential to leave America's available systems in the dust if we don't upgrade quickly," claims Leonard Ray, chairman of the council's Government Relations Committee. "In Japan, Korea, and a number of European countries, fiber-to-the-home networks and 100-Mbit connections are increasingly common. America must accelerate its broadband connectivity."
Corporate leaders have also campaigned for faster networks. In January, during his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Dell Computer chief executive officer Michael Dell noted the need for more high-speed fiber in the U.S. network.
Along with its call for a "100 Megabit Nation," the FTTH Council suggests a number of policy proposals it believes will help reach this objective: continued video franchise reform, an end to restrictions on municipal broadband, financial incentives, the reauthorization of the Rural Utilities Service broadband loan program, and Congressional oversight on video content access concerns. The FTTH Council also is encouraging policymakers to hear from various stakeholders in order to incorporate an effective broadband strategy.
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