Fast, Universal Broadband: The Dirty Secret about the Roadblock

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Artwork: Chip Taylor
Where's the fastest broadband service? The Federal Communications Commission's effort to expand availability of high-speed Internet access throughout the U.S. offers a clue as to where -- and why -- the best services exist.

Last month the FCC asked companies, organizations and individuals to comment on the state of broadband in the U.S. as part of its now-annual "706 Inquiry." The FCC will use the information to help with the National Broadband Plan, which aims to make high-speed Internet access available to every U.S. resident.

As responses start to come in, many service providers (including Verizon and Comcast) have made it clear that the FCC's current standard of 768 kbps down and 200 kbps up is an adequate speed definition for broadband Internet access.

Naturally, their stance has drawn criticism and accusations that it is setting a low bar for the definition of broadband, especially for certain public usage.

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David E. Young, of Verizon Federal Regulatory Affairs, went as far as to say on Verizon's Policy Blog, "If we set a baseline definition too high as we aim to wire the unwired in remote areas, we may have made that goal much harder to achieve due -- not to will or policy -- but the laws of physics."

Young points out that states with higher population densities that are served by Verizon FiOS Internet are, in fact, the top four states for reported Internet connection speed.

In other words, Verizon is happy to provide blazing-fast connection speeds to customers in highly-populated areas where profit margins will be high.

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It's a shame Verizon refused to apply for federal broadband funding -- it could have helped cover infrastructure costs in rural areas.

Young also wrote that Verizon's filing to the FCC states, "[The] FCC should set aggressive, aspirational [sic] targets of 50 Mbps for fixed broadband and 5 Mbps for mobile broadband."

Translation: there is no reason not to strive for faster speeds; Verizon just doesn't want to be forced to deliver.

So, if you want fast Internet access, don't live in the sticks. The "laws of physics" make it much harder for Verizon to offer FiOS there.

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