5 Things You Need to Know About President Obama’s Broadband Announcement Today

Earlier today, President Obama traveled to Cedar Falls, Iowa to share how this small city has done some big things to deliver lightning-fast Internet to the entire metro area. This afternoon, he toured the Cedar Falls Utilities headquarters to see how technicians connect homes and businesses to the area’s fiber optic network, and called for more communities to deliver this vital resource to their economy.

So here are five things you need to know about today’s announcement.

1. Fiber optic Internet is really, really fast.

The average American broadband customer has around 10 Mbps, which means downloading an HD movie would take around 22 minutes. Once reserved for research universities and major telecommunications carriers, fiber optic Internet is now available direct to homes and businesses. And along with it comes blazing speeds of around 1 gigabyte — or 1,000 megabytes — per second. That’s around 100 times faster than the average American Internet connection, and brings down the time to download that same HD movie to around eight seconds. That’s right: eight seconds.

2. Cedar Falls, Iowa has really, really fast fiber optic Internet. For everyone in town.

If you live, or have a business in Cedar Falls, you can get a “gig,” and you can get it for less than many Americans pay for premium cable. Now not everyone needs access to all that speed, and not every town will find fiber optic Internet to be the answer for them — but communities deserve to decide for themselves, and to experience the benefits that come with it.

3. Fast, affordable Internet is about a lot more than watching movies or online gaming.

Fast broadband can be a magnetic force for a local economy — it keeps existing businesses in town and thriving, and attracts new ones, creating jobs. In his speech, the President outlined just how broadband is helping spur economic revitalization in towns across the country, including here in Cedar Falls. And fast Internet isn’t just about helping technology companies, either. It can help small businesses stay competitive, giving them access to the full range of cloud services and online tools to streamline everything from payroll to collaborating with others. And, yes, it’s great for streaming movies and MMORPGs, too.

4. But it’s not available all across the country.

There’s been some impressive investment across the country, and for some, speeds have continued to rise — in fact between 2009 and 2012, annual investment in U.S. wireless networks grew more than 40%, from $21 billion to $30 billion. Yet around half the country’s rural population cannot even get access at a quarter of the speed of Cedar Falls — and when they do, they rarely have more than one provider to choose from. We can’t afford to leave so many parts of the country without a vibrant, competitive broadband marketplace.

5. President Obama’s announcements today will help bring faster, cheaper Internet for more Americans.

In the 1920s, some argued that reliable electricity was a luxury, too expensive to offer to the entire country, and its uses too uncertain for rural communities to take full advantage. From supporting community efforts to bringing faster and better broadband to citizens to removing regulatory barriers to build-out and investment, the President’s announcements today are all aimed at helping more communities in America get access to this transformative — and essential — technology.