The federal government’s plan to promote expansion of the country’s high-speed Internet network has been swamped with applications totaling nearly $28 billion – seven times the $4 billion allocated to the program’s first round of spending.
Applications came in from a diverse range of parties including state, local, and tribal governments; nonprofits; industry; anchor institutions, such as libraries, universities, community colleges, and hospitals; public safety organizations; and other entities in rural, suburban, and urban areas. The wide array of applicants illustrates how greater bandwidth benefits virtually every aspect of society.
The urgency of bulking up the nation’s Internet infrastructure was underscored by a report released last week by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). It revealed that the United States ranks 28th in the world in average Internet connection speed and is not making significant progress in building a faster network.
The report said the average download speed in South Korea is 20.4 megabits per second (mbps) — four times faster than the US average of 5.1 mbps.
Continued job growth, innovation and rural development require high-speed, universal networks. The CWA said that data shows that for every $5 billion invested in broadband infrastructure to create these networks, 97,500 new jobs in the telecommunications, computer and IT sectors will be created.
“Every American should have affordable access to high-speed Internet, no matter where they live. This is essential to economic growth and will help maintain our global competitiveness,” said Larry Cohen, president, CWA. “Unfortunately, fragmented government programs and uneven private sector responses to build out Internet access have left a digital divide across the country.”
The country has made little progress in speeding up the Internet during the past year. Tests conducted by speedmatters.org found the average US download speed had improved by only nine-tenths of a megabit per second between 2008 and 2009 — from 4.2 mbps to 5.1 mbps.