"The FCC has set a 4Mbps download target for universal US broadband—but how to get those (modest) speeds to underserved areas? According to a new report (PDF) from the Commission, we can forget about fiber—it costs too much. Underserved areas would be served best by DSL, some 4G wireless coverage, and satellite service for those who truly live in the boondocks.
But the price for all this non-cutting-edge tech is still steep: $23.5 billion.
We're going to fund... DSL?
Network builders today all say that fiber is the future of wireline—Australia has just committed to run fiber to 93 percent of its homes, assuming that it will provide a next-gen Internet platform for decades. As the federal government thinks about doling out universal service cash, though, fiber is at the bottom of the list, and the issue is immediate cost.
"While end-users are likely to demand more speed over time, the evolution of that demand is uncertain," says the FCC's report. "Given current trends, building a future-proof network immediately is likely more expensive than paying for future upgrades."
This is in large part a measure of density. As Australian consultants found out when they examined the feasibility of the government plan, reaching the last 7 percent of the population was dramatically more expensive when using fiber. Australia opted for fixed wireless and next-gen satellite, but that's in part because it mandated reasonable 12Mbps connections for everyone in the country. DSL generally has no problem hitting 4Mbps, even over long loop lengths, and all US homes already have a phone line, so it became the tech of choice for the FCC.
4G wireless tech is a better choice in the eastern two-thirds of the country, where population densities are much higher—but those regions are largely served by 4Mbps+ broadband already. (The map below shows which parts of the country are best served by DSL and which by 4G wireless.)...." | more
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