How fast do our broadband connections need to be? This was a question discussed in a recent National League of Cities meeting regarding a National Broadband Policy.
Current U.S. standards set the definition of “broadband” as at least 200kbps. It’s important to recognize the bandwidth and speed demands of the current and upcoming IP applications. For instance, borrowed from a FTTP paper from the Baller Herbst Law Group (reference)
is the following chart:
So in this case there is basically nothing you can do at 200kbps, except for basic web surfing and email. Any thoughts of high-definition video is completely out of the question.
The problem with using these numbers in the chart as a guide is they don’t even address the simultaneous use of the different applications in a single location. Example: how many televisions do you have in your house? Are they ever used at the same time? If you had an IPTV provider like AT&T or Verizon as your provider, you would need bandwidth that accommodates multiple HD signals and any other Internet applications that might be in use. I think we’re talking in the 100mbps range as a near goal and need. You couple the entertainment venues with the increasing number of people working from home and using their broadband connection and all of the sudden 100mbps doesn’t seem so big. As a reference point, Japan is the world leader at 100mbps.
So, here’s the debate. With the rich, bandwidth intensive applications on the horizon and the economic competitiveness of the United States at stake, how robust and how much speed should we expect from our broadband infrastructure? I urge you to watch this debate in Washington D.C. from the FCC, Congress and throughout the Presidential candidate discussions. I also urge you to let your thoughts be known by posting to this blog.
America is falling behind in the Broadband Age! Recent surveys from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) show the U.S. ranked 15th in the world in national broadband penetration. As recent as 2001, the U.S. was ranked 4th!
Those in industry say not to get too caught up in the rankings, but there are multiple issues to deal with here, not to mention the United States ability to compete on a global stage. The rankings act as a leading indicator that exposes the problem and the opportunity to regain a leadership role in broadband penetration, affordability, bandwidth and speed. Broadband access has come to a point not too dissimilar to when telephone access was gaining wide-spread use or when electricity was coming into every community. The elected leadership at the time realized how important these services were to the well being of their citizens and to the strength of our nation and took action to insure the services were available to everyone.
With broadband, aggressive movement to make it accessible to everyone and to get the speeds and capacities into a competitive and even a leadership state, will facilitate the country’s ability to continue to be a leader in the economic world. More importantly (if that is even possible!) is the ability to better educate our citizens, provide better and more affordable healthcare, better safety, provide more job opportunities and all in all provide a better information and communications infrastructure for our country.
Wearing my elected official hat, I serve on the Information Technology and Communications Steering Committee of the National League of Cities. Shortly, the organization will come out with a position paper espousing a much more aggressive tone in our country’s approach to broadband. We anticipate this dialog to not only spur great discussion and action in Washington, but also on the Presidential campaign trail. Local, state and federal officials are beginning to realize the importance of broadband to our country’s livelihood.
With these thoughts, I’ll leave you with a link to FCC Commissioner Copps’ opening statement to the U.S. SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION FIELD HEARING ON “THE STATE OF BROADBAND IN ARKANSAS”, LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS on AUGUST 28, 2007