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IRIS 2010-4:1/41

United States

100 Squared?

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Jonathan Adler

Media Center, New York Law School

The United States is focused on improving its broadband deployment. Congress charged the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) to create a National Broadband Plan by March 17, 2010 “to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal.” The FCC has steadily released bits and pieces of the plan. On February 16, 2010, during his speech at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (“NARUC”) Conference, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced a new “100 Squared Initiative.” This proposal sets a broadband penetration goal of 100 million US households to receive 100 megabits per second by 2020. Currently, existing US broadband networks offer speeds in the range of 3-10 Mbps. He envisioned that this build-out will make the US “the world’s largest market of very high-speed broadband users,” in turn creating jobs and dramatically improving healthcare as well as education.

Reactions to the “100 Squared Initiative” have been mixed. Some say that the plan is flawed. Why set the goal at 100 million households when America is projected to have approximately 130 million households by 2020? Others called on the FCC's National Broadband Plan to set the goal of broadband in the range of telephony—more than 95 percent penetration. Others reacted with sheer confusion; What does “100 Squared” mean? Is that 100Mbps symmetrical? Must an advertised 100Mbps actually be deliverable? Is that a 100Mbps monopoly or a competitive market for consumers? How does the “squared” fit in? Also, public interest groups have called for consumer protections to be attached to the plan.

US telecom carriers have offered mixed reactions regarding the viability of the plan. Qwest Communications called the FCC proposal unrealistic, while Verizon thinks the plan is achievable and has already successfully tested its 100 Mbps based on its FiOS circuited-switched fiber optic system. In addition to telecoms operators, some US cable operators--including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and, Charter Communications-- already offer broadband services capable of delivering theoretical speeds in excess of 100 Mbps using the DOCSIS 3.0 platform. DOCSIS 3.0 services are currently available to over 50 million cable customers and are expected to reach more than 100 million users in the next few years. So far, the DOCSIS 3.0 services have only provided speeds of up to 50 Mbps.

There is one common response from all interested parties: they consider broadband outreach to be of vital importance and praise the FCC for having its head and heart in the right place. The official plan is slated to be delivered to Congress on March 17, 2010.