It’s always great to be an Internet user, but after the Federal Communications Commission released a report called Measuring Broadband America at this month’s meeting, it’s looking even better.
The annual report, published first in August 2011, said in its second edition that broadband speeds for several companies has risen in the past year, in some cases quite dramatically.
A USA Today analysis found that the average speed increased from 87 percent of the advertised speeds to 96 percent since last year.
The biggest leap was for Cablevision, who bought our local provider Bresnan, now Optimum, in 2010, which went from 54 percent to 120 percent, tied for the highest rate with Verizon’s fiber optic offerings.
“That is good news for consumers and good news for our economy,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said during the meeting. “Faster broadband has brought untold benefits to millions of Americans from distance learning to distance health care to telecommuting … to being able to hear loved ones thousands of miles away.”
The study is the product of the National Broadband Plan, that was unveiled in March 2010 to fulfill a requirement of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
There are a number of goals in the plan to make America more connected, more competitive, like ensuring that, by 2020, 100 million Americans have affordable access to 100 megabits per second download speeds, several times the fastest rates currently available here in Havre.
By comparison, South Korea, the world’s leader in broadband speeds, announced in February 2011 their intention to offer 1 gigabit per second, ten times the U.S. goal, by the end of this year.
The plan will also reopen and privatize much of the wireless spectrum, after consolidating parts that were used for analog TV signal and satellite communications, to companies for commercial use to improve mobile broadband.
Genachowski and other Obama administration officials believe that expanding and encouraging broadband innovation are one of the most important challenges facing 21st century America.
“Like electricity a century ago, broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life. It is enabling entire new industries and unlocking vast new possibilities for existing ones. It is changing how we educate children, deliver health care, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government, and access, organize and disseminate knowledge,” the NBP says.
The $831 billion ARRA, commonly called the “stimulus package,” that required the plan also “appropriated $7.2 billion for the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) to expand broadband access and adoption in communities across the U.S.”
Our own Triangle Communications has used RUS funds to build astounding fiber optic service into communities Malta, south Havre and Rocky Boy. They can’t offer it in Havre because CenturyLink controls Havre’s in-town Internet infrastructure.
The USA Today article also mentions several local governments that have undertaken ambitious municipal broadband plans, like Bristol, Va., and Chattanooga, Tenn.
The article quotes a warning from Benjamin Lennett, from the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, that state governments, and their friends in the broadband industry, trying to put the kibosh on all this willy-nilly innovation.
“We have to figure out a way to increase the level of competition or we are all going to pay through the nose, and speeds are not going to keep up,” Lennett said.
This sounds familiar, probably from when it was said 236 years ago, in Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.”
“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices,” Smith says.
Some things may never change. But the speed of your Internet connection is not one of them.
(Zach White is a reporter with the Havre Daily News.)