For millions of Americans, having access to speedy Internet is still an impossibility. The FCC has promised it would fix this when it announced the National Broadband Plan in 2010. Since then, there hasn't been much progress made on the agency's goal of making sure everybody has access to inexpensive broadband Internet. At a meeting on Friday, the Commission finally showed some signs that it's starting to get serious.
CNET reports that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recently met with a room full of mayors across the U.S. to issue a challenge to them. It's called the "Gigabit City Challenge" and its goal is to have at least one city in every state outfitted with gigabit Internet by 2015. It's a bit more ambitious than the original National Broadband Plan that categorized "broadband" as being 100 Mbps.
“American economic history teaches a clear lesson about infrastructure. If we build it, innovation will come," said Genachowski. "The U.S. needs a critical mass of gigabit communities nationwide so that innovators can develop next-generation applications and services that will drive economic growth and global competitiveness.”
So, what spurred the FCC to finally start taking gigabit Internet expansion seriously? As you can imagine, the increased rate at which gigabit networks are being announced was a major contributor. The gigabit networks in Chattanooga, Kansas City and Seattle are specifically called out as being major innovators in bringing faster Internet to the masses.
Any of the aforementioned cities will tell you, however, that installing gigabit networks takes a lot of time, and more importantly, a lot of money. How is the FCC going to overcome the hurdle of established ISPs refusing to put forth the cash to renovate and expand their current networks? The Commission says it will establish "a new online clearinghouse of best practices to collect and disseminate information about how to lower the costs and increase the speed of broadband deployment nationwide."
To compliment the new clearinghouse, the Commission will also "hold workshops on gigabit communities:"
The workshops will convene leaders from the gigabit community ecosystem—including broadband providers, and state and municipal leaders— to evaluate barriers, increase incentives, and lower the costs of speeding gigabit network deployment. Together, the workshops will inform the Commission’s clearinghouse of ways industry, and local and state leaders can meet the challenge to establish gigabit communities nationwide.
The FCC has honorable intentions with its latest "challenge," but we'll have to see if it can spur the change needed to bring gigabit broadband to every state in the U.S. ISPs have traditionally avoided these kind of major investments instead relying on slow Internet and abusive data caps to make a quick buck. Getting local government on board is a good first step, but now it has to find some common ground with an industry that doesn't care much for the Commission or its regulations.