Ubiquity or broadband?

I’ve started to analyze our latest data from a few rural regions in the U.S., where small communities recently obtained broadband services.  This is a five-year, USDA-funded study that should provide us with some insights about what difference broadband makes in rural areas, a topic that I’ve been writing on over the last five years or so.  When I talked about this subject with our newly minted Ph.D., Seung-Hwun Mun (who just started his new job in Chicago), he remarked that in Korea, the term “broadband” has really fallen off the map now – because it is taken for granted.  The new word is “ubiquity”:  access all the time, everywhere, from many platforms.

I was thinking about this in light of all the press that came out last week around Verizon’s FiOS service, its high speed fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service that is creeping across some cities these days (New York City being one of the latest service areas).  The company is spending $23 billion (yes, billion) on the infrastructure upgrade, and it is the most fundamental infrastructure investment any telecom company has made in some time.  FiOS is readying its network for faster delivery of television; its network offers speeds of around 50 mpbs, compared to a “normal” cable service speed of 6-12 mbps. 

Fiber-based services will be reliable, fast, and no doubt useful, and many of us rejoice that there will be solid competition to cable companies in the Internet domain.  But ubiquity – that’s not FiOS.  It’s broadband with a gold star, but it’s (relatively) expensive, and will only be in cities for the near term.  Ubiquity doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s list of network goals for the near term. 

I think the U.S. will continue to sink on those international broadband ratings from the ITU that politicians hate to see.


About sharon

University of Texas professor in the Radio-TV-Film Department. Specialist in broadband deployment issues, communication policy, technology issues, technology and culture
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