Broadband Too Pricey? There May Be Options

Gone are the days of hisses and beeps. Now, most of us log on to the Internet through silent, fast — and often pricey — broadband connections. But at a time when many families are trying to trim the monthly budget, there may be alternatives to those plans. Omar Gallaga of the Austin American-Statesman offers his insight.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

We are back now with Omar Gallaga. And Omar, Google hopes to exploit some of these concerns. The tech giant is launching its own broadband service, Google Fiber, and lots of towns are lining up for the service. Tell us whats going on.

Mr. GALLAGA: Right, we talked about this a few weeks ago - Google Gigabit. Several cities including Seattle, Pittsburg, I believe New Orleans have kind of stepped up to try to put together a proposal to get Googles attention. What Google is doing is they're going to provide one gigabit Internet service to a very limited area probably, about 50,000 people to start with. And this would be a boon to any community that had it. It would be much, much faster than Internet speeds than what most of us are getting.

And we'd hope it would spur innovation a new creative uses of the Internet. Topeka, Kansas is actually, in the month of March, renaming themselves Google, Kansas, to try to get Googles attention. So it kind of shows - kind of what the demand is out there for this. I think, especially in the tech world, we kind of lag behind other countries in our Internet speeds and one gigabit is much, much faster than any of us have ever experienced probably.

NORRIS: That name, Google Fiber, I wonder if they focus-grouped that because it sounds like breakfast cereal for people of a certain age.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALLAGA: As long as it's got extreme turbo boost...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALLAGA: ...I think we'll be happy.

NORRIS: Broadband has also been on Washingtons agenda. This month the FCC is unveiling its new national broadband plan, thats the Federal Communications Commission. Could this impact to how we get on the Internet at home?

Mr. GALLAGA: Everyone hopes it does, even the people who have problems with specific parts of what the plan is supposed to be. Everyone hopes that this would provide faster Internet speeds for everybody and to people in more areas. The chairman of the FCC is supposed to unveil that plan sometime this month. And weve been getting, you know, hints of bits and pieces of it. But really what it's trying to do is to free up wireless spectrum for more of these kind of mobile broadband services.

Its also looking to expand Internet to rural areas where people cant get a good steady fast Internet connection. So, the question is will it be funded? I mean there was one proposal in it that's 25 billion on its own. And with the economy the way it is, everyone is wondering whether Congress is going to approve all these measures. But everyone is in support of these things, its just a question of whether they're going to be funded and how much of that will actually make it into the final plan.

NORRIS: Thank you, Omar.

Mr. GALLAGA: Thanks for having me and we will be posting links to the speed tests and everything else on the All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech.

NORRIS: Thank you. Thats Omar Gallaga, he covers technology culture for the Austin American-Statesman and also for All Tech Considered.

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