Lawmaker Tells FCC To Aim For Superfast Broadband

As the Federal Communications Commission readies its national broadband plan, a leading lawmaker is urging the agency to aim to ensure that the vast majority of U.S. residents have speedy connections.

"The commission should explicitly endorse a goal for minimum broadband speeds of at least 50 megabits downstream and 20 megabits upstream for 80 percent of the population by 2015," Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) wrote last week in a letter to the FCC. "Without committing to such ambitious, but achievable, levels of speed and service, the promises of telemedicine, distance learning and telecommuting may remain a far-off dream rather than a near-term reality."

The average U.S. advertised download speed in September of 2008 was 9.6 Mbps, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Broadband advocacy group Public Knowledge cheered Boucher's proposal. "Universal availability at sufficiently high speeds are achievements to which the Commission's broadband plan should aim," President and co-founder Gigi Sohn said in a statement. "We hope the commission heeds Chairman Boucher's advice and thinks in bigger and broader terms as it works through the final stages of its broadband plan."

The FCC is looking at a host of issues relating to broadband, including what speed connection should even be considered as broadband.

Advocacy groups differ with Internet service providers over how the FCC should approach that question. Free Press urged the agency to emphasize "aspirational" definitions, which the group said could be as fast as 100 Mbps.

But the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, argued that the FCC should not emphasize speeds when defining the term. "The desire for continual improvement in national broadband performance is a worthy goal, but a constantly evolving definition of 'broadband' is not necessary or helpful to achieving that goal," the group argued in a recent submission.

On Sunday, Verizon's David Young, vice president for federal regulatory affairs, said on the company blog that it supports defining broadband at the relatively slow 768 kbps downstream and 200 kpbs upstream, but also wants the FCC to "set aggressive, aspirational targets of 50 Mbps for fixed broadband and 5 Mbps for mobile broadband."

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