* FCC seeks to establish 100 Mbps Internet speeds
* Goal is to make U.S. largest group of high-speed users
* FCC says it needs more companies to spur competition
* Qwest calls plan "a dream", Verizon says it's possible
(Adds Cisco comment, paragraphs 20-21)
By John Poirier
WASHINGTON, Feb 16 The U.S. Federal
Communications Commission unveiled a plan on Tuesday that would
require Internet providers to offer minimum home connection
speeds by 2020, a proposal that some telecommunications
companies panned as unrealistic.
The FCC wants service providers to offer home Internet data
transmission speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to 100
million homes by a decade from now, Commission Chairman Julius
Industry estimates generally put average U.S. Internet
speeds at below 4 Mbps.
The proposal is part of the FCC's National Broadband Plan,
due next month. It comes a week after Google Inc (GOOG.O)
rattled Internet service providers with its plan to build a
super-fast Internet network.
Some providers derided the FCC's plan.
"A 100 meg is just a dream," Qwest Communications
International Inc (Q.N) Chief Executive Edward Mueller told
Reuters. "We couldn't afford it."
"First, we don't think the customer wants that. Secondly,
if (Google has) invented some technology, we'd love to partner
with them," Mueller added.
AT&T (T.N), the top broadband provider among U.S.
telecommunications carriers, said the FCC should resist calls
for "extreme forms of regulation that would cripple, if not
destroy, the very investments needed to realize its goal."
Verizon (VZ.N), the third-largest provider, and one that
has a more advanced network than many competitors, said it has
completed successful trials of 100 Mbps and higher through its
fiber-optic FiOS network.
"(One gigabit per second) as discussed in current news
reports is a lot of signal; typically enough for many massive
business operations," Verizon said in a statement that referred
to Google's plan to test a network with those speeds. "But we
could make it happen over the FiOS network without much
trouble, should a market for it develop."
Verizon said it offers speeds of up to 50 Mbps.
One analyst questioned whether the FCC's proposal could
lead to a sustainable business model.
"In order to earn a return for investors, you have to be
conscious of what consumers will pay. I don't know this is
something consumers will pay for," Piper Jaffray analyst
Christopher Larsen said. "It's a nice goal, but it's a little
on the over ambitious side."
Genachowski said the FCC plan would set "ambitious but
achievable goals" in remarks to the National Association of
Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference.
He offered few details on the plan and how the FCC would
get providers to reach the minimum speeds. He said the goal is
to transform the United States into the world's largest market
of very high-speed Internet users.
NEED FOR SPEED
Genachowski said speedier Internet service would help
create jobs and economic growth.
"Despite significant private investment and some strong
strides over the last decade, America's broadband ecosystem is
not nearly as robust as it needs to be," he said.
The United States ranked 19th in broadband speed, trailing
Japan, Korea and France, according to a 2008 study by the
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Data shows that about 64 percent of U.S. households used a
high-speed Internet service in 2009, the Commerce Department
said on Tuesday. That is a 25 percent increase from 51 percent
two years earlier.
Companies like network equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc
(CSCO.O), which makes routers and switches which support
Internet traffic, would benefit from greater broadband
"Cisco believes that a next generation Internet will enable
economic growth and job creation, as well as improve the
delivery of health care, education and energy," Jeff Campbell,
Cisco's director of technology and trade policy, said in a
Research in Motion Ltd RIM.TO, which makes the BlackBerry
mobile device, said on Tuesday that smartphone manufacturers
must start developing fewer bandwidth-guzzling products or risk
choking already congested airwaves. [ID:nN15188493]
Genachowski lauded Google, the world's top Internet search
company, for plans to offer its fast network to up to half a
million people, and called on other companies to step up their
Google wants to demonstrate that a carrier could easily
manage complex applications that use a lot of bandwidth without
"We should stretch beyond 100 megabits," Genachowski said.
"The U.S. should lead the world in ultra high-speed testbeds as
fast or faster than anywhere in the world."
The FCC also wants to use the universal service fund, a
U.S. subsidy program for low-income families to gain access to
phone service, to get more people high-speed Internet access.
(Additional reporting by Ritsuko Ando and Sinead Carew in New
York, editing by Dave Zimmerman, Robert MacMillan, Tim Dobbyn)