Don't be misled. Just because one study shows 25 percent of urban Americans aren't getting broadband internet access doesn't mean the country is falling behind in the fiber-optic technology space.
In honor of World Wi-Fi day on June 20, IHS Markit and Wireless Broadband Alliance released statistics on the availability of broadband around the world. It explores the levels of urban and rural connectivity across eight major countries, including the United States.
It showed almost 25 percent of city-dwelling Americans don't have access to broadband and the authors claimed urban areas face significant challenges like:
But that doesn’t sit right with me.
Back in 2015, under President Barack Obama, the FCC raised the benchmark for broadband speed from four megabits per second to 25. In rewriting the definition of "high-speed internet," Obama's heart was in the right place. I totally get that.
It was, however, largely unnecessary.
What do you need broadband for? Streaming. At least that's what most traffic is on the internet these days. (The streaming industry is expected to reach $70.05 billion by 2021.)
You can stream high-definition feeds at 6.5 to seven Mbps. At my house, I have 20 Mbps service and I do just fine with my Netflix binging.
In raising the broadband standard, we're forcing wireless providers to ramp up their networks and investigate pushing fiber all the way to the home. That's a really expensive undertaking, a lesson Google learned and pulled plans to deploy broadband in major cities around the country.
When my family moved into a new house in 1999, my dad did a total remodel and pulled conduit through the walls to get ready for fiber to the home (FTTH). It was pretty forward thinking of him, so it's too bad we'll probably never see it happen.
Aside from the glass being costly, every house will need to have a new, much more expensive optical modem for true FTTH.
And the question of "who owns the glass" arises. Do we go back to the days before divestiture when Ma Bell owned the phone and all the wiring to and inside your house?
What we should start seeing is fiber to the neighborhood. Network providers are running fiber to outdoor shelters and tapping into existing infrastructure like coaxial cable.
The transceiver takes the signal from optical to digital, running the last mile over copper and twisted-pair.
Copper is great for its strength and ability to protect the signal but it isn't good for long runs. The resistance of the material and the electricity required to power the network combine to slow down access speeds. On the last mile, however, the run isn't long enough to lose a lot of speed and you can push as much as 100 Mbps.
That doesn't just make it easier to serve broadband to urban-dwelling Americans, but it also opens the door to pushing high-speed internet into the rural communities.
Aaron Monheim is a Product Manager of Fiber. He has been with Telect for three years and manages our high-density fiber distribution series, along with our cable management raceway solution, WaveTrax.
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