This week, the FCC unanimously approved a reform of its Universal Service Fund into the Connect America Fund. One of its stipulations is that communications carriers will be required to offer broadband access to anyone that requests it. It also defines broadband speeds as 4mbps downstream and 1mbps upstream.
It’s a step in the right direction, although, according to a 2010 study by Oxford University, funded by Cisco, the U.S. still ranks just 15th worldwide in broadband. The study cites the leader, South Korea, as having 100% broadband penetration at an average speed of 35mbps.
In today’s American political climate, we can only hope that common sense prevails in the broadband arena, and that this modernization of the Universal Service Fund holds up. The old Bell System chartered itself to serve only urban areas, which is why rural residents can thank the U.S. government for mandating funding – a program with roots in the 1930s – to help ensure rural service. But, like today’s health care debacle, many rural people are likely to be hoodwinked into voting against their own self interests and oppose universal broadband as a wasteful socialist program.
Mea Culpa note: I posted a blog entry a few weeks ago when it began to circulate that Intel had pulled the plug on its Atom (CE4100, CE4200) chip sets. In fact, only the marketing team was dissolved and reassigned. According to reliable sources, the chips themselves are alive and well, and the next-generation 51xx dual-core series are in the hands of outside developers, with the first new products coming in the CES 2012 time-frame. That’s what I get for succumbing to sensationalism.