FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has set a new national goal of at least one-high speed Internet service in each U.S. state by 2015.
Signaling the start of the second Obama administration, Genachowski told the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, D.C., of his new “Gigabit City Challenge,” a call to establish these gigabits-per-second Internet communities in the nation within two years.
He said the Internet initiative would accelerate the creation of a critical mass of markets and innovation hubs with ultra-fast Internet speeds. “American economic history teaches a clear lesson about infrastructure,” he said. “If we build it, innovation will come. The U.S. needs a critical mass of gigabit communities nationwide so that companies can develop next-generation applications and services that will drive economic growth and global competitiveness.”
Speeds of 1Gb/s are approximately 100 times faster than the average fixed high-speed Internet connection. At 1Gb/s speeds, connections can handle multiple streams of large-format, HD content like online video calls, movies and immersive educational experiences.
Networks cease to be hurdles to applications, so it no longer matters whether medical data, HD video or online services are in the same building or miles away across the state.
Genachowski said gigabit communities spur innovators to create new businesses and industries, spark connectivity among citizens and services, and incentivize investment in high-tech industries. Today, about 42 communities in 14 states are served by ultra-high-speed fiber Internet providers, according to the Fiber to the Home Council.
The FCC chairman did not propose government funding for his proposed Internet expansion. Financial conditions in the world today make ambitious programs like the development of NASA in the Kennedy years or the Interstate Highway System in the Eisenhower era highly unlikely.
Yet, to help communities meet the Gigabit City Challenge, Genachowski announced plans to create a new online clearinghouse of best practices to collect and disseminate information about how to lower the costs and increase the speed of broadband deployment nationwide, including to create gigabit communities. He proposed working jointly with the mayors on the best-practices clearinghouse effort.
The FCC, Genachowski said, will hold workshops on gigabit communities. The workshops will convene leaders from the gigabit community ecosystem — including broadband providers, and state and municipal leaders — to evaluate barriers, increase incentives and lower the costs of speeding gigabit network deployment. Together, the workshops will inform the Commission’s clearinghouse of ways industry, and local and state leaders can meet the challenge to establish gigabit communities nationwide.
He noted that in Chattanooga, TN, a local utility deployed a fiber network to 170,000 homes. Thanks to the city’s investment in broadband infrastructure, he said, companies like Volkswagen and Amazon have created more than 3,700 new jobs over the past three years in Chattanooga.
In Kansas City, he said the Google Fiber initiative is bringing gigabit service to residential consumers, attracting new entrepreneurs and startups to the community.
The Gig.U initiative, he added, has already catalyzed $200 million in private investment to build ultra-high-speed hubs in the communities of many leading research universities, including a recent joint venture with the University of Washington and a private ISP to deliver gigabit service to a dozen neighborhoods in Seattle.
The FCC’s Broadband Acceleration Initiative, Genachowski said, is working to expand the reach of broadband by streamlining access to utility poles and rights of way, and improving policies for wireless facilities and other infrastructure.
Gigabit communities can also benefit from tens of thousands of miles of critical “middle mile” fiber infrastructure funded throughout the country by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program run by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The Commission’s Connect America Fund, the largest ever public investment in rural broadband, includes funding for high-speed broadband to anchor institutions such as schools and hospitals.