Although the Federal Communication Commission’s implementation of Net Neutrality has earned a largely positive response, some were concerned that the move could cause Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to reduce their infrastructure spending. For Americans still waiting for their chance for broadband access, that’s bad news.

 

Is the FCC to blame?

On September 9, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai spoke at an American Enterprise Institute discussion regarding broadband infrastructure investment. According to Pai, ISP infrastructure spending fell 12 percent in the first half of 2015 compared to the first half of 2014. And Pai blames the reduction in spending directly on Net Neutrality, “It’s the FCC’s decision to capitulate to the President’s demands and impose Title II public utility regulation upon the Internet that is playing a large role.”

Why would an FCC commissioner criticize FCC policy? A five-member commission leads the FCC, and when the organization passed its Net Neutrality policy, it did so by a 3-2 vote. Pai was one of the two commissioners who voted against the measure, so his stance isn’t a reversal: he’s been against Net Neutrality from the beginning and warned of consequences including less innovation and more cost for consumers.

Pai isn’t the only person in a position of power within the government who feels this way. During a hearing titled “Common Carrier Regulation of the Internet: Investment Impacts,” , chair of the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, expressed his concerns that, though ISPs may continue to invest in broadband improvements, that investment may plateau or decline over time.

 

Is spending bouncing back?

Some evidence suggests that infrastructure spending may be increasing, not decreasing. Time Warner Cable spent an additional 10.1 percent on infrastructure from the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015, and AT&T’s spending was also up slightly.

 

Is it just politics?

It’s worth noting that FCC Commissioner Pai and Congressman Walden are Republicans, and Net Neutrality is largely popular among Democrats, including President Obama. This political divide doesn’t automatically make one side right and one side wrong, but it does explain some of the disagreement.

Is it possible that both sets of numbers are correct, and that spending was down for the first half of the year, but up overall after three quarters? Sure. If so, it may be because the FCC voted for Net Neutrality in February, but the rules didn’t go into effect until the end of June. The industry could have been watching and waiting, as AT&T said it would, to see how Net Neutrality played out before committing a significant amount of money to its infrastructure.

But as Congressman Walden pointed out, ISPs aren’t going to stop investing in infrastructure entirely. The only question is whether they would have spent even more in the absence of a Net Neutrality policy.

 

How’s your broadband infrastructure?

America’s broadband infrastructure as a whole is important to everyone, but what should matter most to you is what it looks like in your area. The best way to see the whole picture is to enter your ZIP code below to compare the speeds and prices of the plans available in your area. You may be able to find a faster plan, even if your overall investment in broadband goes down.

 

Imagine you’re at a hotel or convention center for a business conference. You have to download some files from your server back at the office, so you turn on your Wi-Fi hot spot. For some reason, it won’t work and you can’t troubleshoot the problem. So you inquire about accessing the convention center’s Wi-Fi network. Of course you can get access, they say. It’s only $80 per day. That price is obscene, but if you need those files, what would you do? It’s a decision you shouldn’t — and don’t — have to make. No Need to Imagine In August, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Smart City Holdings $750,000 for blocking mobile Wi-Fi hot spots at its convention centers in at least four states so that it could charge guests for use of their network. The company issued a press release that said, in essence, “We didn’t know we couldn’t do that, and besides, everyone else is doing it, too.” Being forced to pay for access is especially frustrating when network performance is poor, as is often the case with hotel Wi-Fi. Your mobile hot spot can probably outperform most hotel networks, and you can buy a mobile hot spot or pay for a month’s worth of access for less than Smart City Holdings was charging for a single day. A Federal Case As annoying as it would be to have your Wi-Fi hot spot blocked, some people might argue that the federal government shouldn’t be involved in such a case: if you don’t like it, book the convention somewhere else. Their convention center, their rules, right? In this case, wrong. The federal government has the power to regulate interstate commerce, and the FCC is specifically tasked with regulating wireless communications across the country. So when any private entity attempts to block FCC-approved wireless communications, they’re in the FCC’s house, and the FCC makes the rules. Fight for Your Right to Wi-Fi The first step in preventing such a problem from happening to you is to know your rights. According to a January press release from the FCC: “No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner’s Wi-Fi network.” It might be worth bookmarking that press release on your smartphone or laptop just in case you wind up at a conference center that isn’t as up on the law as it should be. Not an Isolated Incident Smart City Holdings isn’t the first company to violate the prohibition against Wi-Fi blocking — and they most likely won’t be the last. Last year, the FCC fined Marriott Hotel Services, Inc., $600,000 for blocking Wi-Fi access at their Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn. The FCC calls the complaints it has received regarding Wi-Fi blocking “a disturbing trend,” and urges anyone who feels they’ve been the victim of such blocking to report the incident to them at fcc.gov/complaints or call 1-888-CALL-FCC. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is required to issue an annual Broadband Progress Report detailing whether the spread of broadband Internet access over the last year was “reasonable and timely.” The 2015 report said it was not. To this point, the FCC used speed as the only criteria in determining the spread of broadband adoption. But in August, the FCC requested comments on whether it should consider new factors to determine the successful spread of broadband for its next Broadband Progress Report. These factors could include latency, reliability, privacy, data caps, and price. That may sound like a boring point of procedure, but based on the FCC’s past actions, if this new criteria is approved, it could mean big changes for the future of high-speed Internet availability. Why does it matter? The Telecommunications Act of 1996 says, “If the Commission’s determination is negative [because the spread of broadband was not reasonable nor timely], it shall take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market.” To understand why the Broadband Progress Report is so important, look back at what the FCC did this year after determining the spread of broadband in 2014 was neither reasonable nor timely. •Redefined the definition of broadband speed, increasing it from 4 Mbps to 25 Mbps •Implemented Net Neutrality, reclassifying Internet Service Providers as Title II common carriers •Expanded the Lifeline program, subsidizing Internet access for low-income households •Redesigned the E-rate program, adding $1.5 billion for broadband in public schools and libraries •Added nearly $1.7 billion in funding to the Connect America program to bring broadband to rural Americans That’s an impressive amount of action, and there’s still a quarter of the year left. We could still see quite a few changes before the FCC releases the next Broadband Progress Report. How could new factors change the FCC policy? Let’s indulge in some speculation for a moment. Say the FCC determines that price, latency, data caps, or some other factor is responsible for slowing the spread of broadband. This could create new policy regarding those factors to promote competition, as the Telecommunications Act of 1996 instructs. What if, for instance, it decided high prices limited the spread of broadband adoption, and then proposed policy that would provide incentives for new ISPs to go into markets already dominated by one provider? The cost of building a fiber network makes some ISPs reluctant to enter markets where another ISP already has a significant head start. Imagine that, to spur competition and lower prices, these reluctant providers start getting tax breaks if they enter these areas. Such a move would likely result in lawsuits against the FCC, but lawsuits didn’t deter the FCC from making policy changes in 2015. How do you judge broadband? When shopping for a high-speed Internet plan, you, too, should consider factors besides speed. It’s important, but depending on how you use the Internet, the quality of the signal, limits on data use, and price may be more important to you. And because the most important factor is availability, you need to know which plans you can choose from in your area. If you’re not making reasonable and timely progress in finding a better plan, just enter your ZIP code below. [zipfinder] When President Obama made his speech urging the FCC to preempt state laws prohibiting municipal networks, he made it in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The state had no such law, and Cedar Falls, home to the University of Northern Iowa, has a gigabit municipal network. While this lack of a law made Iowa a prime example of the president’s vision, it’s now the passage of a new law that could improve high-speed Internet access for even more Iowans. A new law in Iowa seeks to increase the availability of broadband in rural portions of the state by offering tax breaks to companies that expand access in rural areas. Governor Terry Branstad called it the “Connect Every Acre” bill because, he said, connecting every acre of the state to high-speed Internet is crucial for continued economic growth. Iowa taxpayers should be pleased to know that the bill uses no state funds to accomplish its goal. Although the state will manage a grant program to expand broadband availability, money for those grants will come from the federal government, non-profit groups, and private investors. The bill also offers 10-year property tax exemptions to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that expand broadband access in specific rural areas. The Current State of Iowa’s Internet Robert von Wollfradt, Iowa’s Chief Information Officer, says broadband Internet is already available in 60 percent of the state. Data from online analytics company Ookla shows that Iowa just barely beats the national average for Internet value in terms of cost per Mbps, but below the national averages for connection quality and advertised speed vs. actual speed. Akamai’s latest “State of the Internet” report shows that Iowa ranks 19th among the states for average Internet speed. Given that population density is a major factor in the availability of fiber networks, states like Iowa, with few large population centers, have to pick up some of the slack that industry and the federal government programs like the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Connect America program won’t. Analyzing Ookla’s data alongside U.S. Census Bureau data showed that population density correlates with Internet value. Iowa ranks 36th among states for population density, and the only cities with populations of more than 100,000 are Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. Why Rural Broadband Matters to Iowa Although bringing broadband to rural communities is important for education and luring new businesses, broadband access, particularly Wi-Fi, plays an increasingly large part in one of the state’s oldest industries, agriculture. Consider that it’s not just the FCC promoting expansion of rural broadband: the U.S. Department of Agriculture is also involved, offering loans to companies expanding rural broadband. Connectivity is making farming equipment increasingly productivity, and John Deere predicts a future of machine-to-machine connections—in other words, the Internet of Things is going farming. Hate Waiting? Not all Iowans seeking faster Internet access need to wait until the new law spurs change. If you haven’t looked for a better plan lately, you might be surprised at what’s available. And you’ll definitely be surprised at how easy it is to shop for that faster connection – just enter your zip code below to get started. [zipfinder] Photo Credit: TumblingRun/Flikr In April, we questioned if Internet access is a right, and if so, whether the government should provide it as an entitlement to low-income Americans. Your answer depends on your politics, but we noted that such an entitlement wouldn’t be a stretch. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) already provides qualifying low-income Americans with phone service via its Lifeline Program. Money for that program comes from the Universal Connectivity Fee in your phone bill every month, and some refer to it as the “Obamaphone” program, even though it originated during the Reagan administration. Maybe we have a fan at the FCC, because it’s as if they read our article. On May 28, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed that the organization expand the Lifeline program to subsidize Internet access. And the way we read it, it shouldn’t increase the fee you already pay. Lifeline Goes Online Under Wheeler’s proposal, the FCC would pay qualified households up to $9.25 per month toward Internet access, the same amount as the current phone subsidy. No, that’s not enough to cover typical high-speed Internet plans. Fortunately, some network providers offer specially priced plans for low-income consumers. One example is the XFINITY® Internet Essentials plan offers 5 Mbps service for only $9.95 per month to eligible families. The two most important qualifications are living in an area where the service is available, which seems obvious, and having at least one child eligible for the National School Lunch Program. At a net cost of 70 cents per month, anyone can afford that level of broadband access. If adopted, the rule could help address the Broadband Gap, which is the disparity in broadband adoption rates between low-income and higher-income Americans. Information from the Pew Research Institute shows that 88 percent of American adults with an annual household income over $75,000 have broadband access, while only 46 percent of those with a $30,000 annual household income have access. Given the increasing importance of Internet access to schoolwork, Pew has labeled the same gap on families with school-aged children the “homework gap.” Which Is Most Important? One catch is that eligible households will only be eligible for one subsidy. They may be eligible for subsidized home phone, cell phone, or broadband service, but they’ll have to choose one of the three. That’s really no different than current Lifeline rules that make participants choose between landline and cell service. Because the proposal wouldn’t make households eligible for another subsidy, only an alternative one, it seems relatively safe to assume Lifeline expansion shouldn’t significantly increase costs assuming eligibility rules remain as they currently are. For now, though, this expansion remains a proposal only. The five commissioners who run the FCC will likely vote on it as soon as June 18, but even if approved, it will face a second vote prior to implementation. If it passes again, it will still probably take time to implement. How to Get Service Current Lifeline Program rules require phone service providers to determine consumers’ eligibility for the subsidy, and it’s entirely likely that the same will be true for broadband providers if the proposal eventually passes. If and when that occurs, those who think they might be eligible should contact participating providers to verify. If the FCC opts not to subsidize broadband, or if you’re not eligible for the program, it’s still easy to find affordable high-speed Internet service. And finding the plans you’re eligible for couldn’t be easier: all you need to do is enter your zip code below. [zipfinder] Photo Credit: MrJamesAckerley/Flikr In January, we wrote about the Connect America program, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) initiative designed to help spread broadband access across rural America. At the time, the commission had pledged $100 million to support broadband experiments, and received nearly nine times that much in bids from interested companies. So far, Connect America has brought broadband to 1.7 million residents in 45 states, and Puerto Rico. On April 29, the FCC announced a $1.675 billion increase in Connect America Phase II funding. The whole of the FCC’s annual investment in rural broadband and voice networks is $4.5 billion, making the increase a huge one in terms of percentage. Even better is that the FCC says this increase comes without any increase in the Universal Service Fund fees, the source of Connect America funding, on our phone bills. Funding Requirements Based on bidders’ response to earlier Connect America proposals, Internet Service providers (ISPs) will likely offer to accept funding than the FCC can possibly accommodate, and the FCC has specific targets in mind. Most importantly, participating providers will have to deliver 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload speeds, an increase in speed of more than 70 percent compared to current speeds in eligible areas. According to the commission, only one in 100 rural Americans currently has that level of speed, compared to one in three Americans nationwide. Companies receiving funding would also have to work within a specific timeframe. To get the money, participating companies will have to provide target speeds to 40 percent of their eligible area by 2017, increasing to 60 percent in 2018 and 100 percent by 2020. The Core of the Problem The FCC realizes that the challenge to bringing broadband to rural areas is that it’s expensive. Laying fiber in rural areas is no more expensive than laying it in a city, but the city has fare more potential customers to reduce the per-consumer cost. Companies building high-speed networks know that consumers won’t be willing to pay enough to create a profit, and so rural areas’ connectivity gets ignored. The new FCC funding will subsidize the per-customer cost of spreading access to high-speed networks. The FCC estimates 10 Mbps service should cost $52.50 per month, and the program funds areas where consumer costs would likely exceed that figure. Population in these areas is 8.5 million, which means that the math is easy: the FCC is willing to pay $200 per customer to expand existing networks into rural areas. That’s actually a fairly significant commitment, representing the equivalent of almost four months of free Internet based on the FCC’s service cost estimate. Where and When An FCC map displays areas eligible for Phase II funding. If you live in an eligible area, know that participating ISPs have until August 27, 2015 to accept funding. Naturally, it will still take time after that to actually expand service areas, so while the FCC is pushing hard to narrow the broadband gap, it’s not something that will happen overnight. If you can’t wait that long, maybe you don’t have to. See which plans are currently available in your area, and maybe you can get a faster connection overnight. [zipfinder] Photo Credit: Neil Howard/Flikr In February, we wrote about President Obama’s desire to strengthen online privacy laws by giving the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) the power to fine violators up to $16,500 per day. Now the FTC isn’t the only federal commission looking into online privacy. On April 28, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held a workshop to determine the extent to which it can or should regulate broadband privacy. That workshop was no more than just a very small first step into examining a very large issue. It only lasted three hours; although the FCC has been exceptionally aggressive in making policy changes this year, even it can’t get anything done in such a short amount of time. The details of the meeting are available, but are technical and honestly pretty boring to anyone not engaged in the online security field. However, the workshop may have set the tone for what to expect when FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler described online privacy as “unassailable.” Online privacy is going to become a much bigger deal than it already is as millions or billions of smart devices come online to form the Internet of Things. More devices mean more potential vulnerabilities, and more information that could be of value to data thieves. No Paper or Digital Tiger On April 8, the FCC announced that AT&T agreed to pay $25 million to settle the commission’s investigation into whether AT&T did enough to protect customers against data breaches in overseas call centers. There’s no reason to expect the FCC wouldn’t show the same kind of teeth in regulation of online privacy, or that FCC regulations would be weaker than those proposed for the FTC. The FCC has been aggressive in making policy changes this year, so action on broadband privacy could come sooner, not later. It implemented net neutrality, increased funding for rural broadband and public broadband in schools and libraries, and is considering letting online video providers play by the same rules as satellite and cable companies. Industry Still Seeks Halt to Net Neutrality On May 1, a number of telecommunications companies and industry trade groups petitioned the FCC to halt implementation of the portion of its net neutrality ruling that reclassified Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as common carriers, meaning they had to carry all content and traffic at the same price. The petitioners included CTIA – The Wireless Association, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), and the American Cable Association (ACA). The last two filed their petition jointly. However, while it was the common carrier reclassification that makes net neutrality possible, that wasn’t exactly what the petitions sought to prohibit: Among other arguments, the NCTA-ACA petition argued that common carrier status will subject ISPs and consumers to increased costs and state and federal taxes that are currently prohibited. One week later, the FCC rejected those petitions, and the groups that filed them likely expected as much. However, the same groups were legally unable to request a stay in court without filing petitions with the FCC first. With that step out of the way, expect lawsuits to follow, and while the FCC is confident it will win any such challenges, it’s not a sure thing. The FCC fought and lost a court battle over net neutrality in 2010. A More Personal Challenge If you’re not satisfied with the current state of your Internet connection, there’s no need to file a petition or ask the courts for help. All you need to do to start improving your situation is enter your zip code below. [zipfinder] What should we call TV shows when they’re not on TV? What if they were never on TV, like Netflix’s “House of Cards” or Hulu’s “Deadbeat”? They’re not TV shows, even though they look and feel like them. This is a conundrum the Emmy Awards had to deal with: the presenter of the awards is known as the “Television Academy,” and yet in 2013, the web-only “House of Cards” won the award for “Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series.” The FCC Steps In The confusion over what is and isn’t TV is relevant again. According to the FCC, TV channels that broadcast via satellite and cable are known as “multichannel video programming distributors” (MVPD). MVPDs have to play by FCC rules: rights include the ability to negotiate retransmission rights for popular channels. Responsibilities require making certain less-popular channels available and following rules regarding commercial volume. Currently, MVPD rules don’t apply to any online streaming services, but if the FCC approves a new rule change, they could. Bear in mind the new rule wouldn’t apply to on-demand services like Netflix or Hulu, at least not using their current content model. Instead, it would apply to services that offer subscribers the ability to watch one of multiple live content streams. One example is Ustream, which may not be a household name yet, but with a new FCC ruling, its model might prove more popular. Because the rule is still open for comments, one question the FCC asks is whether individual streaming services should be able to decide whether they want to be classified as MVPDs and subject to all rights and responsibilities or not. In such a case, each service could decide whether the rights outweighed the responsibilities, but services would have to play by both or neither. Want TV channels on your phone? Assume for a moment that the rule passes, and that the MVPD definition expands to include Internet as well as satellite and cable providers. You wouldn’t log on and binge watch a whole season of your favorite show: you’d be watching the same content available on TV at the same time. Potential benefits for viewers could include the ability to eliminate your TV altogether if you prefer to watch on something like an Apple HD Cinema Display. It would also mean the ability to watch live TV anywhere on your mobile device. That ability could make it easier to sports fans to catch games without paying for other streaming services like MLB.TV—which could itself be classified as an MVPD. Warts and All It does sound cool, but literally putting TV channels on your computer or phone means taking the bad with the good: commercials, blackout rules for sporting events, and depending on your mobile or home Internet plan, extra data charges. It’s also impossible to know what these online content providers would charge. As with some current cord-cutting services, the price structure might not live up to expectations. In the Opposing Corners It’s not surprising to learn that the cable TV industry opposes the proposed change. However, some cable networks, including Disney, Discovery, and AMC, are also against it, as is the aforementioned MLB.TV. Those in favor of the proposal include the broadcast TV industry and some broadcast TV channels, including even those belonging to cable networks opposing the change, such as the Disney-owned ABC. We don’t know which way the FCC will rule, but recent events show the commission isn’t afraid of change. It reclassified Internet networks as public utilities and implemented net neutrality, both controversial measures, so we wouldn’t be surprised at all if the new MVPD definition changes from proposal to policy. All Your Bandwidth is Belong to Us The term “epic” is considerably overused in modern parlance, but if a significant portion of cable and satellite subscribers switched to Internet programming, the bandwidth requirements would indeed be epic. Considering that Netflix and YouTube make up half of all Internet bandwidth, and that people watch 14 times more TV than online video, the implication is obvious: America would need a huge increase in bandwidth, both in terms of individual users and networks as a whole. Recently, we discussed an FCC program designed to bring high-speed Internet access to rural America. Now the commission updated its E-rate program, which once focused on older tech like phone lines, to better support relevant modern technologies like gigabit Internet. As part of these changes, the FCC added another $1.5 billion in funding to help bring faster Internet speeds to public schools and libraries. How’s it Going to Work? Funding for the E-rate program comes from the Universal Service Fund tax that you can see on your phone bill every month; the extra funding will amount to less than $2 per consumer per year. Schools and libraries can apply for E-rate funds, and with the increase in funding, the program has a total of $3.9 available this year. It stresses flexibility, allowing schools and libraries to purchase or even build the Internet plans that they find best for solving their needs. With a five-year budgeting plan, those groups that receive the funds can spread construction costs out over multiple years. E-rate even provides incentives for matching state funds, and specifically seeks to fund rural and Tribal schools and libraries where construction costs are often higher than in rural areas. It’s possible, of course, that with that fixed amount available, not every group that applies for funding will receive it, or receive as much as they requested. So, by all means, make your local school administrators and librarians aware of the program so your community can benefit from it. What’s the Goal? An FCC press release describes “a fundamental reset” of the 18-year-old E-rate program with a view toward improving individual learning. “Broadband is transforming 21st Century education and life-long learning,” the release says, and faster Internet speeds are necessary for digital learning applications. Why Now? The FCC notes that 63 percent of public school students, some 40 million, don’t have access to broadband networks. The commission states that one-to-one student to device ratios are “increasingly necessary,” but that 45 percent of public school districts lack the Wi-Fi capacity to do so. According to information provided to the FCC, 68 percent of all school districts in the country lack even a single school capable of meeting current high-speed networking targets. This lack of access is the “connectivity gap,” and closing it will put all students in a better position to succeed in their academics and careers later in life. The FCC press release ends by stating, “While the cost to consumers of these changes to the E-rate program is small, the benefits to students, life-long learners, and the nation’s competitiveness are great.” Prepared students become prepared adults, and that preparation puts this country as a whole in a better position to maintain its status as a world leader in technology, engineering, and more. You’re paying for it, so you should use it. Encourage your local leaders to apply for program funds. Once you get a feel for the new gigabit Internet connection at your local library, we get the feeling that you’re going to want it for your own home. Image by Steven Vance/Flickr
In the meantime, be sure to check out the different plans available in your area. [zipfinder] Most of us have momentarily considered packing up our lives and moving out of the city to a little cabin in the mountains or house on the prairie. Assuming you can reconcile the idea of modern technology in your cozy hideaway, the Internet makes it easier than ever to enjoy shopping and entertainment and still get away from the stress of traffic and the city. But one thing you definitely don’t want to get away from is your current high-speed Internet connection. No matter how much you might want to slow life down a bit, no one ever wants to slow down your online activities. A slow Internet connection, which is likely the only kind you’re going to get in that mountain cabin, somehow feels more stressful than not having one. Guess you’re not moving after all. Sure, there are plenty of urban areas with slow Internet connections, too. But the more densely populated an area is, the more likely there’s a private or municipal provider willing to make a fiber or other high-speed network a reality. When your closest neighbors have antlers, though, who’s interested in turbocharging your network connection? They Don’t Just Handle Wardrobe Malfunctions That’s not just a rhetorical question: the FCC has your back. That agency’s Connect America Phase II program is designed to increase the availability of high-speed Internet access in rural areas. Specifically, the FCC is targeting areas that are currently unserved, defined as download speeds below 3 Mbps and 768 Kbps uploads, by unsubsidized providers. The FCC has assigned $100 million towards experiments in providing rural broadband access, and that money is earmarked to accomplish specific goals. Three quarters of that money will go towards networks capable of providing 100 Mbps downloads and 25 Mbps uploads. Another $15 million will support 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload speeds in high-cost areas, and the last $10 million will provide 10/1 down/up speeds to the most costly areas to service. Over 180 bidders have responded to the FCC proposal, with over 600 bids totaling $885 million. So it sounds as if the agency will be able to be selective, and pick the most promising and economical options. Bids have come from both private companies and municipal utilities, and involve wired and wireless options, so each rural community is likely to get the solution best suited to its individual circumstances, rather than adapting one solution to every area. When and Where Is it Coming? An FCC map highlights the areas initially eligible to be part of Phase II funding, so it’s easy to see whether you should start getting excited about this news. The bids include projects in all 50 states, and even Puerto Rico. With that said, there’s not yet a schedule for implementation of any of these new high-speed networks. If you’re sick of your slow rural connection, but you don’t see your neighborhood on that map, don’t fret. Success in initial trials would likely trigger expansion into new areas. Until then, if you haven’t checked lately, you might be surprised at the high-speed plans now available in your area. See what high-speed Internet options you do have right now: [zipfinder] Image by Kenneth Spencer/Flickr
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