With the United States falling behind other nations in broadband adoption, the Federal Communications Commission will soon announce a national broadband plan aimed at getting more people online at faster speeds. A new survey by the FCC shows why 93 million Americans don’t get broadband — a combination of high costs, poor understanding, and a general apathy for the Internet — highlighting how difficult implementing a national broadband plan will be.
Here are four things I hope will come of the FCC’s proposal, which will be submitted to Congress on March 17:
100 Mbps: Affordable, Not Just Available
A key goal for the FCC is to bring 100-megabit-per-second broadband to 100 million homes by 2020, but the current market shows that the speed you get isn’t necessarily the fastest possible. Many Internet service providers offer a few speed tiers, with cheaper plans for casual Web browsers and pricey turbo speeds for power users. This will have to change for 100 Mbps Internet to be adopted on a grand scale.
Don’t Forget About Bandwidth
It’s all well and good to connect new people to the Internet, but it’s also important that existing users can still access the Internet without issue as Web video sucks up bandwidth. Separately, the FCC is creating net neutrality rules to ensure open access to the Internet, but solving bandwidth problems is also about making sure the infrastructure can handle things like Chatroulette.
Convince the Skeptics
Though 36 percent of Americans without broadband said cost is the main issue, 22 percent said they don’t understand the technology and worry about security, and 19 percent think the Internet’s a waste of time. So the biggest problem is not cost, but more general concerns about the Internet itself. The FCC has talked about health, education, and job benefits of broadband, but it’ll have to figure out how to make the Internet seem exciting to those who aren’t interested.
Wireless is Equally Important
By the time our slow-as-molasses government gets around to solving the wired broadband issue, it’s possible that mobile broadband will have become more important and relevant. Telecoms are pronouncing the death of landlines, so wired internet can’t be far behind. Hopefully the FCC isn’t approaching broadband with the intent of attacking wired and mobile Internet at the same time, instead of one after the other.