Today Ars Technica posted a couple great articles about broadband in the United States, one covering how communities are stepping up and providing their own high speed access while the other covered the new Broadband Plan set before congress. What interests me most is the support for broadband for all of the U.S., including rural areas. The FCC recently proposed a plan that would set the goal of all households receiving a minimum of 4mbps internet at a reasonable price by 2020 – a little above the typical DSL speed of 3mbps and about 80 times faster than 56k dial up. To put this into perspective, that would equate to download speeds of about 500KB per second or the ability to stream Netflix in high quality while still doing some low impact web surfing. When you consider the number of internet connected homes that have more than one concurrent internet user, it is easy to imagine that this is constraining. On the other hand, the number of homes and users connected to the internet via dial up and satellite that technologies such as flash and streaming video have rendered quite obsolete it is obvious that this is a great step in the right direction. The plan also has a goal of 100mbps in 100 million homes by 2020 as well in urban areas.
What is troubling, however is how far behind the rest of the developed world we are in internet access. Given that the information age is here and the very competitiveness of our schools and workforce relies the internet and related services it is difficult to understand how we are not more ambitious. That is where the Municipality driven broadband speeds shine as a great example. In the article linked above, it is noted how the area around the Wisconsin Dells has urban internet hosted by the city that features two tiers; 10mbps for $50 per month and 5mbps for $40. Using federal grant money and private investment, they are going to push this service to all of their users via fiber optics, including those far out in the rural areas that currently only have access to dial up or satellite. The community feels that this will allow them to sustain a thriving rural atmosphere that doesn’t make moving into town for internet required to work remotely or take classes online necessary.
Some might think this is a waste of federal tax funds, but for all the projects we endeavor on with our federal funds this one not only delivers value to constituents but enables our country to continue its rural heritage and remain relevant in an ever increasingly connected world. I am really thankful that Butler-Bremer offered DSL to the farm when I was there as I feel it was critical to my development as an IT professional, hopefully more rural towns will follow suit.
I mean, what is life without You Tube? Empty!