Preview The State of America’s Broadband Ahead of President Obama’s Visit to Iowa

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On Wednesday, President Obama will visit Cedar Falls, Iowa, a small town about two hours north of Des Moines. If reports are correct, he’s going to Iowa to preview a new broadband initiative that he intends to propose in his upcoming State of the Union speech. So it seems like a good opportunity for us to take stock of the current state of broadband and how we might connect more Americans to fast broadband networks.

Over the last two decades, America’s cable providers have invested over $230 billion to extend and upgrade fast broadband connections to communities large and small, urban and rural, in all corners of America. In just the last decade, the average cable broadband customer has seen top speeds increase a whopping 3200%.

In places like Iowa, companies like Mediacom and its dedicated staff of 1,600 employees focus daily on bringing state-of-the-art solutions to customers with a need for speed. With a network that already includes over 200,000 strand miles of fiber optic cable, Mediacom is expanding its capabilities to meet the growing needs of consumers and businesses throughout the state.

Cable’s pace of technological progress shows no signs of abating. As we witnessed at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, even faster speeds are now at hand with the industry’s next generation, “Gigasphere” technology (also known as DOCSIS 3.1). Broadcom’s recent announcement that they are beginning to manufacture Gigasphere chips that can deliver multi-gigabit broadband connections highlights the type of progress that will make today’s high-speed offerings look positively pedestrian.

“President Obama’s call to reclassify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service threatens to raise the cost of capital associated with network investment.”

While the cable industry continues to deliver on faster broadband at declining per-Megabit prices for Americans consumers, we know that that there are two discrete areas that may warrant targeted government attention. First, for some very rural areas, private economic incentives may not be sufficient to justify network investments. In such areas, government incentives can play a constructive role in promoting universal service. Second, we know that for some Americans, the availability of broadband infrastructure is insufficient to spur adoption. The cable industry is committed to closing this digital divide by educating consumers about the benefits of broadband and by offering programs to help families overcome barriers they may face, including discounted service. You can learn more about those programs on our Closing the Digital Divide page.

Regrettably, the news is not all good. Instead of building on policies that have helped spur private investment, President Obama’s call to reclassify broadband as a Title II telecommunications service threatens to raise the cost of capital associated with network investment and slow continued progress in building faster and better broadband. Given the FCC’s ability to restore net neutrality rules without taking such extreme action, Title II appears particularly misguided.

While we look forward to the President’s speech in Iowa this Wednesday, we hope that policymakers will recognize that future strategies to improve broadband are best informed by our past success in light-touch regulatory policies that unlock access to private capital to spur innovation and investment. Connecting more Americans to fast, accessible Internet networks is critically important to our growth as a nation. And we look forward to continuing to do our part.