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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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September 25, 2008 8:28 AM

Calls For 10/100Mbps Nation = Achieving a Full Fiber America

I've long been a fan of Jim Baller's basic national broadband strategy premise that in order to be great we must set clear goals that strive for greatness.

Yesterday in a letter sent to key Congressional leaders, five organizations (CWA, FTTH Council, TechNet, Information Technology Industry Council, and the Voice on the Net Coaltion) joined forces to call for action on S. Res 191 and H.Res. 1292, companion resolutions introduced in Congress by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Representative Anne Eshoo (D-CA) that set two goals for America:

- Universal 10Mbps by 2010
- Universal 100Mbps by 2015

These are laudable goals that if achieved will position America to maintain its leadership role in the digital economy. But they're also ambitious enough goals that if embraced will demand the government start taking a much more proactive role in spurring the deployment of next-generation broadband networks.

Simply put: the free market left to its own devices will not be able to meet these goals.

I'm not trying to suggest this inability is entirely their fault. Consumer demand for this much bandwidth is still questionable as few apps require 10Mbps, let alone 100Mbps. And deploying this much capacity requires a lot of capital investment, especially in rural areas. So for a profit-driven entity, justifying the cost when the return on investment is more about the public good than their bottom line can be difficult.

That doesn't mean these goals aren't achievable, though. The key is we must find ways for all levels of the public and all facets of the private sectors to start pulling our country's broadband cart in the same direction. Duplicative efforts, endless lawsuits, overly burdensome regulation, and apathetic private providers only leave us further away from achieving these goals.

But in order to get everyone working towards the same future, I think we need to put a finer point on these goals.

Both the 10Mbps and 100Mbps goals are called for to be symmetrical. To realize the true power of the Internet users must be able to upload information as fast as they can download, otherwise we'll only end up benefiting from half of the potential of this new medium.

Here's the thing: Only full fiber networks can sustain that much upload capacity.

Even on their best days copper and wireless broadband infrastructures have trouble achieving 10Mbps, and I can't recall having seen anything reliably claiming that either is capable of 100Mbps even in the labs today.

On top of this, we can't assume that our connectivity needs will stop growing at 100Mbps. If we are to keep up with the rest of the world, eventually we're going to need to look at 1Gbps and beyond.

So from a perspective of which technological horse to pick, full fiber networks are the only answer to achieve these goals.

By picking copper we're essentially betting on the hope that someone comes up with a new technology that can squeeze more bandwidth to eek its way closer to these goals.

Whereas the great thing about fiber optics is that once the cable's in the ground, it already has the capacity to go to 100Mbps symmetric just by using different lasers, and it's ready to go to 1Gbps and beyond when needed.

So even though no one else seems to want to say this directly: setting the goal of 100Mbps Nation necessitates also setting the goal of a Full Fiber America.

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