The national broadband plan that federal regulators delivered to Congress in March doesn’t go far enough to satisfy some experts, who warn that the United States would still trail other industrialized nations in prices and speed, reports the Associated Press. That’s because the proposal fails to bring adequate competition to a duopoly broadband market now controlled by giant phone and cable TV companies, critics say.
According to the New America Foundation, a 100-megabit broadband connection costs as little $16 per month in Sweden and $24 per month in Korea, while service that is only half that fast costs $145 per month in the U.S. “What I want is big bandwidth for cheap prices,” said Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative. “But the plan punts on competition.”
One development that could help spur broadband expansion is the opening up of television “white spaces” for use as high-speed internet conduits. The FCC voted unanimously Sept. 23 to allow the use of these so-called “white spaces” between TV stations to deliver broadband connections that can function like Wi-Fi networks on steroids. The agency is calling the new technology “super Wi-Fi” and hopes to see devices with the new technology start to appear within a year.
Education officials also will be closely watching the agency’s efforts to enforce “net neutrality,” which has important implications for schools. By a 3-2 vote in December, the FCC passed new rules meant to prevent internet service providers from discriminating against certain types of online content, with all three of the commission’s Democrats voting for the measure and both Republicans voting against it. The new rules might not be the safeguard that schools and colleges were hoping for, however, as net-neutrality supporters believe the new policy might lead to “bidding wars” that could leave smaller schools without access to a high-speed web connection.