The FCC released a report yesterday that identifies a total cost of $23.5 billion to bring broadband of at least 4 Mb/s to unserved territories. That is if you use DSL and fixed wireless to accomplish the task. If you were to go with FTTH, the cost jumps to $62 billion.

The Broadband Availability Gap report is part of a larger effort by the FCC, as mandated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (or broadband stimulus program), to perform “an analysis of the most effective and efficient mechanisms for ensuring broadband access by all people of the United States.”

This analysis uses net present value economics to derive a total cost of $23.5 billion to bring broadband to the 7 million homes (14 million people)  identified as unserved in the U.S. DSL and fixed wireless technologies were identified as the methods to deliver broadband for this price tag. The use of other technologies would increase these costs, significantly so, in some cases.

The 4 Mb/s benchmark is used because that’s the number the FCC has identified as a target for broadband funding under the new Connect America Fund (CAF).

Considering the current high cost fund of the USF is about $4 billion and the FCC says that universal service funding will not increase as a result of the transition to broadband and the CAF, it’s not entirely clear how this will be paid for. We’re talking about a $19 billion shortfall – and that’s just to bring 4 Mb/s via DSL and fixed wireless.

For now, $23.5 billion is the FCC’s base case for bringing broadband to the unserved. The FCC will open this process up to public comment, as they determine the best approach to deliver on universal broadband.

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11 thoughts on “FCC Study: FTTH Out, DSL and Fixed Wireless In to Bring Broadband to Unserved

  1. This discourages rural telcos from doing FTTH. Lovely, just lovely.

    That said bonded ADSL2+ Annex M should be able to get some decent speeds out to folks. Just not terribly ipressed with setting the benchmark at something that normal ADSL2+ can do at 15,000 feet…

    1. Good point Ian. But ironically, if you look at most of the funding (in terms of dollars) for last mile broadband in the broadband stimulus program, it's funding FTTH projects, at least for now. We'll have to see what the second round funds.

      1. This is absolutely true. IMO federal funding, if it goes anywhere, should go to fiber deployments. They have a large capital outlay requirement for a long-term advantage, something that DSL and fixed wireless don't have.

      2. That's because they went at this backwards. They should have published the plan first, then provided the funding. Instead, they provide funding then publish a plan.

  2. There has been a lack of funding for wireless deployments. Wireless provides a much quicker and cost effective solution compared to fiber backhaul. Fiber is just not realistic to reach many outlying areas. The cost would be far to great to serve smaller populated areas. Then you have to consider if right way can be achieved.

  3. This is so short sighted. The FCC should be advocating a plan that brings the same broadband to every citizen – not a lower standard for rural. By the time this plan is implemented and finished, the results will already be behind. We'll have to do it all over again. Why not reach for the real future?

  4. Xtendwave ( has a patented modulation scheme that can transmit 1.5Mb/second up to 25k feet from the DSLAM, blowing past ADSL2,etc….it's patented and proved out, the company needs funding to accelerate delivery. It would obviate the need for FTTH or FTTC, by using existing copper infrastructure. Also check out this blog,

  5. Same broadband to everyone? Some people are stuck with 56K in rural areas and others have 100Mb+ in urban areas. Should we put the breaks on the 100Mb until everyone else catches up? Or should we create some big, expensive project to get everyone to 100Mb in the rural areas that may take 5-10 years. By that time, the urban areas will be at 1g or something higher. It would be nice if every road in the country was paved, each town had a doctor and a great grocery store, and every house had a fire hydrant within a quarter mile, but you just can't do it. The countryside is too vast. It's all part of rural inconveniences that is part of living in the middle of no where. The technology has to fit the area. FTTH to someone with a 7 mile long driveway makes no sense.
    Everyone needs broadband, but trying to get everyone equal is not justifiable. Jumping from 56K to 5-10Mb is still a very nice improvement.

    1. Telephone down a 7 mile driveway makes no sense either, yet folks still have it.

      Also, if you ran fiber to the end of said 7-mile driveway then did a point to point wireless link from there to the owner's humble abode, you could get 100 Mbps without much issue.

      1. Let's see. I choose to live in a rural environment. Many advantages to me. But, I get well water, which may or may not dry up or be of great quality, I have to use propane at dramatically fluctuating prices, power is subject to routine outages, and other challenges exist to that life style. But I make that choice. To subject all of our funding mechanisms to the pressures of rural FTTH deployment does not seem fair or necessary. And the 7 mile telephone service doesn't hold water. Different technology, designed to carry very long distances with the addition of very inexpensive components (load coils).

        What would be more reasonable is to hold all telcos accountable for a defined, effective strategy that ultimately does end with FTTH over a reasonable time frame. Pushing fiber deeper into the networks to shorten copper loops, which then can be replaced more cost effectively with fiber is a reasonable strategy which can support very reasonable rates as technology improves. As the copper ages out, especially the drop to the home, the replacement costs will be less. A properly designed network can support ADSL variants and fiber very effectively. And provide very adequate speeds along the way.

      2. Are you serious? Not much issue? A seven mile wireless 100 Mbps link. What are you going to use — microwave, LMDS, what? How are you going to power it? Are you going to build a tower at the end of the driveway? How is that more efficient?

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