Driving Fiber Deeper: The National Broadband Plan at Four

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[Commentary] Blair Levin, who served as the Executive Director of the Omnibus Broadband Initiative at the Federal Communications Commission, gave a speech at the birthday party of sorts for the National Broadband Plan, which turned four years old. In his speech, Levin identified four key strategies from the US broadband plan -- and in every national broadband plan around the world: 1) Driving fiber deeper; 2) Using spectrum more efficiently; 3) Getting everyone online; and 4) Using the platform to improve delivery of public goods. Levin says the right question for the fourth anniversary of the report is ‘Are we improving in executing on those 4 strategies?’ In light of the first goal of the National Broadband Plan, that at least 100 million US homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second by 2020, the data shows that just less than 57% of US households (so roughly 78.5 million) have access to wireline broadband offering download speeds of 100Mbps or more and just more than 18% (approximately 25.4 million) have access to upload speeds of 50Mbps or more. If you’re thinking wireless Internet access could help, just 3% of US households can access wireless broadband offering download speeds of 100Mbps or more and 4.2% have access to wireless upload speeds of 50Mbps or more. Far from 100Mbps, the median wireless connection delivers just 2.1 Mbps.

In assessing the National Broadband Plan's execution to "drive fiber deeper," Blair Levin noted that Google Fiber has sparked activities in nearly 40 communities and inspired efforts by AT&T, CenturyLink, CSpire, and Gig.U. But most of these efforts can be characterized as neighborhood projects: bringing high-speed broadband to the sections of cities that display the greatest demand -- and the resources to pay for it. Given the poor broadband performance in the US and the ongoing digital divide, we're still a long way from realizing the top goal of the National Broadband Plan -- and a long, long way from bringing affordable, high-capacity broadband to everyone in the US.


Driving Fiber Deeper: The National Broadband Plan at Four