March 9, 2007 -- Underscoring the importance of higher bandwidth to America's future competitiveness, the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Council this week called on the U.S. Government to adopt a "100 Megabit Nation" policy aimed at ensuring that next-generation broadband connections are universally available by 2015.
According to a press release, the FTTH Council proposed that Congress and the President act by the end of 2007 to adopt a strategy and timetable for clearing the way for all Americans to gain access to communication services at transmission speeds in excess of 100 megabits per second (Mbps). While the technology exists today to provide this level of bandwidth, the council contends that broadband services currently available to the overwhelming majority of Americans do not exceed 5 Mbps.
The FTTH Council's recommendation included the goal of extending, through both private and public sector initiatives, affordable next-generation broadband to a majority of Americans by 2010, with universal availability by 2015.
"When it comes to broadband, America has the need for speed, the need to compete and the technology at-hand to make it all happen," said FTTH Council president Joe Savage. "If we are to preserve our global leadership in the information age, we must look beyond our current broadband capabilities and begin moving now toward next-generation networks with vastly superior capabilities than are widely available today. We can start doing that now by establishing a national broadband strategy."
Savage noted that recent investments by large network operators have shown that a 100 megabit goal is achievable and that such speeds are very much needed. With consumers accessing increasing amounts of video from Internet sites, the U.S. is facing a deluge of bandwidth consuming applications.
"Telephone and cable providers are deploying deep-fiber networks delivering far more bandwidth than before � often multi-megabits in both directions. And forward-looking phone companies, municipalities and new home developers are deploying next-generation networks," he said. "But at the present rate of build-out it's not going to be enough to keep up with America's growing demand for higher bandwidth applications such as teleconferencing, telemedicine, video sharing and a whole range of information and entertainment services that will be developed over the next few years."
"A 100 Megabit Nation may seem like a luxury today," Savage continued. "But it won't be long before it will be an absolute necessity. We've got to work now to bring down the barriers that are hindering access to higher bandwidth."
International competitiveness is a key factor of consideration, according to the FTTH Council.
"Other nations are deploying lightening-fast broadband networks that have the potential to leave America's available systems in the dust if we don't upgrade quickly," said Leonard Ray, Chairman of the Council's Government Relations Committee. "In Japan, Korea, and a number of European countries, fiber-to-the-home networks and 100 megabit connections are increasingly common. America must accelerate its broadband connectivity."
A variety of corporate leaders have also called for faster networks. In January, during his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Dell Computer CEO Michael Dell noted the need for more high-speed fiber in the U.S. network.
Along with its call for a "100 Megabit Nation," the FTTH Council suggested a number of policy proposals it believes will help reach this objective, including continued video franchise reform, an end to restrictions on municipal broadband, financial incentives, the re-authorization of the Rural Utilities Service broadband loan program, and Congressional oversight on video content access concerns.
The FTTH Council also encouraged policymakers to hear from a wide range of stakeholders in order to incorporate an effective broadband strategy.