FCC pushes for gigabit broadband in all 50 states by 2015

FCC's Julius Genachowski challenges service providers and local communities to build such networks, saying communities would turn themselves into innovation hubs that would create valuable jobs.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski speaks at CTIA 2012 in New Orleans. CNET/Marguerite Reardon

The Federal Communications Commission's chairman, Julius Genachowski, wants to see gigabit speed broadband services in all 50 states by 2015.

At a meeting of U.S. mayors in Washington, D.C., today, Genachowski called on municipal leaders and service providers to deploy gigabit speed broadband in at least one community in each of the 50 states in the next two to three years. Genachowski said that by participating in the "Gigabit City Challenge" communities would turn themselves into innovation hubs that would create valuable jobs for its citizens.

Genachowski has been a big proponent of faster broadband speeds for a long time. In the National Broadband Plan the FCC presented to Congress in 2010, he set a goal of getting 100Mbps broadband to 100 million households by 2020. Now the chairman has upped the ante with his challenge to get speeds to 1 gigabit per second.

Delivering broadband at 1Gbps is nothing to sneeze at. That's 100 times faster than today's average Internet connection. And building such networks can be expensive since they require investments in infrastructure. But Genachowski said that those investments will be well worth the expense.

"American economic history teaches a clear lesson about infrastructure," he said in a statement. "If we build it, innovation will come. 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."

Only 42 communities across 14 states already have ultra-high-speed broadband, according to a report the FCC cited. Google is one company that has been pushing the idea of gigabit networks. Last year it launched a gigabit broadband network in parts of Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kansas. And the city is already seeing strong demand for the service, the FCC said.

In some communities the push for gigabit broadband services has come from local municipalities and utilities that have installed fiber directly to people's homes. Cities such as Lafayette, La., and Chattanooga, Tenn., have been at the forefront of the municipal fiber movement.

The FCC says that the fiber network deployed to 170,000 homes in Chattanooga helped lure big companies like Volkswagen and Amazon to the community, which has created more than 3,700 new jobs over the past three years in Chattanooga.

A private/public partnership program called The Gig.U was started a couple of years ago to help bring communities with universities together with broadband service providers to create high-speed networks in those communities. The project has already helped bring $200 million in private investment to build ultra-high-speed hubs in communities of many leading research universities. One such project currently being developed is a joint venture between the University of Washington and a private Internet service provider to deliver gigabit service to a dozen area neighborhoods in Seattle.

The FCC hopes the Gigabit City Challenge will further these types of efforts. The FCC hasn't committed any funds to the "Gigabit Challenge," but the agency said it will help communities create an online clearinghouse of best practices to help educate local officials and local service providers on the most cost-effective ways to increase broadband deployments.

The agency will also hold workshops on gigabit communities to educate the public about the benefits of these networks and to bring community leaders together to evaluate barriers, increase incentives, and lower the costs of speeding gigabit network deployment.

Mayors such as San Francisco's Edwin Lee said he fully supports the FCC's efforts. And he hopes the support from the federal government will help bring faster speed broadband to his city.

"Expanding high-speed, broadband Internet is a goal that directly supports San Francisco's economic development strategy," he said in a statement. "The innovation economy of the 21st century that thrives in our City depends on creating a connected country, and the FCC's efforts will help provide needed technological advancement that will create jobs and benefit the residents of San Francisco."