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US may need $350b for broadband; CTIA wants spectrum

updated 06:30 pm EDT, Tue September 29, 2009

FCC broadband plan may need $350 billion

A mid-progress update from an FCC panel said today that the US may need $20 billion to $350 billion invested into broadband to realize current government plans for readily available, national Internet access. The agency warns that its data is incomplete but that the figures may be necessary depending on the guaranteed speeds, with $20 billion covering relatively basic broadband while the top sum would cover high-grade access. The figure is well beyond the $7.2 billion so far assigned to the initiative.

Part of the cost increase would address quality of Internet service rather than just basic connections. Only four percent of US homes lack any kind of Internet access, but about 33 percent opt not to subscribe and many of the remainder often don't receive speed sufficiently close to what they were promised. A large portion only receive 50 to 80 percent of their promised speed, the FCC said. Internet connections rarely achieve peak speeds due to overhead, but it's widely reported that some areas are frequently underserviced and bog down during peak usage hours.

Internet providers have often publicly resisted broadband coverage efforts of the sort by claiming that it's impractical to expand into rural areas with little to no existing coverage; the lack of subscribers and the traditionally lower income levels have often meant little return on the investment even after years of income from service. They have been more aggressive in upgrading their existing networks but have often chosen to implement bandwidth caps or traffic throttling rather than implement more frequent but costlier upgrades.

Subsidizing the service in these areas may help offset some of the costs for users in particular, the FCC said in its update.

The news comes just as the CTIA, the carrier-backed cellular association, made a formal ex parte filing asking that the government auction off or otherwise assign at least another 800MHz of spectrum to accommodate the increasing need for wireless data. The request includes a push to either bond existing slices of spectrum or to give up already available spectrum.

In the message, the corporate advocacy group claimed it would be needed for the "virtuous cycle" of the transition to faster services like 4G, when carriers plan to upgrade their capacities well above current demand with the expectation that it will increase in the future. Without the added spectrum, the CTIA believes it might not have enough bandwidth to cope with a surge in mobile Internet use.

"We are facing a perfect storm where demand may outpace supply," the group wrote.

Spectrum has already been a major concern for AT&T, whose major 3G network failures in New York, San Francisco, and some other major US cities have been directly attributed to the telecom firm's inadequate bandwidth until very recent upgrades. These areas had frequently only used the 1,900MHz band for 3G and have been crushed by demand from iPhones, as well as other data-heavy phones, until AT&T activated 3G on the wider and longer-ranged 850MHz band in these areas.

by MacNN Staff



  1. cwsmith

    Joined: Dec 1969


    could drive a truck through

    20b to 350b ? That's a pretty wide margin of error.

  1. Arty50

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Whatever we do...

    ...we shouldn't give this money to the major telecoms. Especially AT&T. We gave them billions before also, and what did it get us...U-Verse...which took forever to roll out, is almost nowhere to be found, and has laughable bandwidth compared to other offerings out there. Thanks, but no thanks.

  1. Peter Bonte

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Just giving the money to the telco's is trowing it away, they're private company's and this is only extra cash for them to spend on corporate bonuses. With this money the government could buy his way into the telecom operators but that would effectively nationalize a big part of the industry.

    Now i do think that roads, police, fire, garbage, army, healthcare and access to the wires should be governmentally controlled, i imagine this won't be easy to accomplish in the US. In Belgium they work with private firms partly owned by private funding, cities, regions and the state depending on the service. Not perfect but it works.

    Spending that much money should make the network free for all but only in a perfect world.

  1. lysolman

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Caller ID, Call Waiting, $ in their pockets

    There are press releases from late 97 and early 98 describing Bell Atlantic's (Verizon) roll-out of fiber optics. These networks were supposed to be done in 98. When did they actually start rolling it out? 2003.

    The government allowed these telco's to charge an arm and a leg for Caller ID, Call Waiting, etc so that money could be rolled back into the cost of installing fiber optic cabling.

    Instead our money got rolled into creating Verizon Wireless.

    Fantastic. Yes, give the telco's more money.

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