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New FCC Plan Would Require Faster Broadband Service

February 17, 2010

Under a new Federal Communications Commission plan unveiled on Tuesday, Internet providers will be required to offer minimum home connection speeds by 2020, Reuters reported.

However, many telecommunications companies say the proposal is unrealistic.

Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said the FCC wants service providers to offer home Internet data transmission speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to 100 million homes within the next 10 years.

Average U.S. Internet speeds are generally below 4 Mbps, according to industry estimates.

The new proposal comes a week after Google Inc rattled Internet service providers with its plan to build a super-fast Internet network. It is also part of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, due next month.

But many providers believe the FCC’s plan is overly ambitious.

Qwest Communications International Inc Chief Executive Edward Mueller told Reuters that a 100 meg transmission speed is just a dream.

“We couldn’t afford it. First, we don’t think the customer wants that. Secondly, if Google has invented some technology, we’d love to partner with them,” Mueller said.

The FCC should resist calls for “extreme forms of regulation that would cripple, if not destroy, the very investments needed to realize its goal,” according to AT&T, the top broadband provider among U.S. telecommunications carriers.

Meanwhile, Verizon, the third-largest provider, has completed successful trials of 100 Mbps and higher through its fiber-optic FiOS network. Verizon has a more advanced network than many competitors.

Verizon said in a statement that one gigabit per second, as discussed in current news reports, is a lot of signal; typically enough for many massive business operations.

“But we could make it happen over the FiOS network without much trouble, should a market for it develop,” the statement said. Verizon said it offers speeds of up to 50 Mbps.

The FCC plan would set “ambitious but achievable goals,” Genachowski said in remarks to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference.

Genachowski believes speedier Internet service would help create jobs and economic growth.

“Despite significant private investment and some strong strides over the last decade, America’s broadband ecosystem is not nearly as robust as it needs to be,” he added.

A 2008 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development showed that the United States ranked 19th in broadband speed, trailing Japan, Korea and France.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday that select data shows that about 64 percent of U.S. households used a high-speed Internet service in 2009, which is a 25 percent increase from 51 percent two years ago.

Cisco Systems Inc, a company that makes network equipment such as routers and switches that support Internet traffic, would benefit from greater broadband investment.

Jeff Campbell, Cisco’s director of technology and trade policy, said Cisco believes that a next generation Internet will enable economic growth and job creation, as well as improve the delivery of health care, education and energy.

“Smartphone manufacturers must start developing fewer bandwidth-guzzling products or risk choking already congested airwaves,” Research in Motion Ltd, which makes the BlackBerry mobile device, said on Tuesday.

Genachowski lauded Google for its plans to offer its fast network to up to half a million people, and called on other companies to step up their broadband plans. The world’s largest Internet search company wants to demonstrate that a carrier could easily manage complex applications that use a lot of bandwidth without sacrificing performance.

Genachowski said companies should stretch beyond 100 megabits.

“The U.S. should lead the world in ultra high-speed testbeds as fast or faster than anywhere in the world,” he said.

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