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A broadband guide for the new Congress

The Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA), a coalition of businesses and non-profit organizations whose goal is to make sure every American has access to broadband Internet, has released its “2013 Broadband Guide for the 113th Congress.”

It may be intended for Congress, but it’s a good overview of Internet and wireless communications for anyone.

The guide contains a lot of useful basic information on Internet Protocol (IP), including a short history of Internet connectivity in the form of a timeline that begins with the Air Force’s use of a dial-up modem in 1958. It also covers the increasing rate of broadband adoption in the United States (16 percent in 2003 to 66 percent in 2012) and includes a glossary of related terms for people who want to know the difference between bits and bytes or who have heard of LTE but aren’t really sure what it is.

One interesting, even nostalgic, aspect of the guide is its graphic depicting how far broadband speeds have come in recent decades. It starts with dial-up access — who of a certain age doesn’t remember the underwater gurgle and broken-string ping of connecting? — which ranged in speed from 2400 bits/sec all the way up to 56 kilobits/sec. At one time, that second number was considered fast.

ISDN wasn’t much faster, but at least it was a dedicated line. And speeds continued to increase through Frame Relay, T1, DSL and cable, with wireless connections of 30 megabits/sec and faster entering the scene and now becoming common. These days, a congressman who wants to check out the guide need only reach for his phone.

With the administration pursuing its National Broadband Plan and agencies at all levels of government requiring reliable bandwidth to support ever-growing mobile, cloud and big data initiatives, broadband is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Congress will no doubt run across legislation on this topic in the next two years, and it would be a good idea for senators and representatives, or at the least their staffs, to know the subject matter. So it’s worth a look. The glossary alone might prevent the same questions being asked over and over again.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Feb 06, 2013 at 9:39 AM


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