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Across the U.S., 95% of citizens have access to fixed broadband with download speeds of at least 4 Mbps (megabits per second) which is suitable to run most domestic applications including real-time and near real-time email, web browsing and YouTube videos. Mobile 3G service, meanwhile, covers 60% of U.S. land mass (2009). However 14 million people don’t have access to a fixed broadband connection, and those that do have access, report that actual download speeds are approximately 40-50% of the advertised “up to” speeds to which they subscribe.17

President Obama has repeatedly emphasized the importance of broadband for economic growth in the U.S. As President-elect, he mentioned broadband rollout as one of his top priorities. He also proposed funding in his stimulus package for broadband deployment in unserved and underserved regions of the nation. Congress subsequently approved funding of $7.2 billion for broadband planning and deployment initiatives in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.18

Investing in broadband

Grow the economy, reduce carbon emissions, strengthen communities

Demand for bandwidth and spectrum increases as data transfer now sits at the heart of business and social interaction

Virtual data is a very real part of the way we live our lives and the amount of data that we transfer is growing. Cisco predicts that the number of network-connected devices will be more than 15 billion – twice the world’s population – by 2015 and

the amount of internet traffic will quadruple.19

The paper ‘The Digital

Universe Decade – Are You Ready?’ explains just how rapid this growth is:

‘Last year [2009], despite the global recession, the Digital Universe set a record. It grew by 62% to nearly 800,000 petabytes ... Picture a stack of DVDs reaching from the earth to the moon and back ... by 2020, our Digital Universe will be 44 TIMES AS BIG as it was in 2009. Our stack of DVDs would now reach halfway to Mars.’20

In the coming decade our Digital Universe will become 44 TIMES AS BIG as it was in 2009: picture a stack of DVDs reaching halfway to Mars by 2020.

Broadband refers to the provision of low-cost, high capacity access to the internet. It once referred to high speed internet access in your home or work. Now it means that you can access the internet whenever you need it: Wi-Fi connects people to the net in popular locations such as parks and hotels; mobile broadband connects people to the internet anywhere that there is coverage through their smartphone or tablet. 4G is the fourth generation mobile broadband network and it is set to revolutionize mobile connection. It has already been rolled out across large metropolitan areas in the U.S. Its key differentiators are improved spectral efficiency and faster download speeds than its predecessor (3G) – users will be able to access the data they want in real time, be it voice, video or text. It is thought that it will be of particular benefit to rural communities which have historically struggled to get access to high speed home networks.

17. Federal Communications Commission, 2009. National Broadband Action Plan. Available from Last accessed June 16th, 2011.

18. One hundred and eleventh congress of the United States of America. 2009. Available from: Last accessed June 16th, 2011.

19. Cisco 2011. Global Internet Traffic Projected to Quadruple by 2015. Available from Last accessed June 16th, 2011. 20. Gantz and Reinsel, 2010. The Digital Universe Decade – Are You Ready? iView. Available from Last accessed June 20th, 2011.


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