January 18, 2013, 7:37 PM — Cities around the U.S. will have gigabit-speed Internet access by 2015 if the FCC's wishes come true.
All 50 states should have at least one community where consumers can get 1Gbps or faster Internet access by 2015, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski said on Friday. Speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., he called the new push for fast networks the Gigabit City Challenge.
Gigabit-speed Internet access stimulates technology innovation and associated economic growth, Genachowski said.
"The U.S. needs a critical mass of gigabit communities nationwide so that innovators can develop next-generation applications and services that will drive economic growth and global competitiveness," Genachowski said, according to an FCC press release. He cited Google's new network in Kansas City and a fiber network built by a local utility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he said Amazon.com and other companies have created more than 3,700 new jobs over the past three years.
However, Genachowski's plans for helping to make those networks happen weren't very specific. He announced the FCC will create an online clearinghouse of best practices for raising the speed and lowering the cost of broadband, including on how to create gigabit communities. He proposed working on that clearinghouse with the Conference of Mayors. Genachowski also said the agency will hold workshops on gigabit communities, where broadband providers, state and local leaders, and others can work out problems in high-speed network creation.
Citing a statistic from the Fiber to the Home Council, a group of organizations and service providers offering fiber Internet, Genachowski said there are about 42 communities in 14 states that have "ultra-high-speed" fiber Internet access. Those services allow users to watch high-definition video, make video calls and participate in immersive educational experiences, he said.
The quality of Internet access varies widely among regions of the U.S. Residents of large cities typically have a choice of high-speed service providers, while some rural areas have few options for broadband apart from satellite. Few areas have gigabit-speed services available to consumers or small businesses.
Google's network in Kansas City, Missouri, and its neighboring city of the same name in Kansas, drew wide attention even before it was built out. In 2010, the company asked for applications from any community that wanted a gigabit-speed network, and it received so many applications it had to delay its decision.