US & World

U.S. Crafts Plan To Quicken Broadband Speeds

Imagine surfing an Internet that's blazingly fast: Music and movies stream in with no interruptions; software programs download in seconds. This may not happen anytime soon - but the government is creating a plan for better broadband access and speeds.

As technology expert Mario Armstrong tells NPR's Steve Inskeep, public schools could see a big boost from the plan.

"To be able to connect kids from their home back to the schools — that simple thing doesn't happen today," Armstrong said, "and it could happen if we had a national broadband policy."

The national broadband plan will be delivered to Congress on March 17. It will certainly call for bringing high-speed Internet connections to more Americans. The program would mean better connectivity for public buildings, from schools to hospitals. The government initiative is particularly meant to help students and job seekers, as well as medical staff and first-responders on emergency teams.

To accomplish that, the United States needs to improve its rate of adopting broadband — the U.S. was recently ranked at No. 15 in that category by a global survey.

Armstrong thinks the new national broadband plan will benefit smaller companies that are hoping to break into the market, as well as one very large company: Google. The giant search company has announced plans to build ultrafast broadband infrastructure in selected test markets around the country — at speeds as fast at 1 gigabit.

One of the key goals of the national broadband plan will be to provide Internet access to Americans in rural areas who don't have any — and to urban residents who can't afford it. Improved access and better connection speeds are crucial to the plan's success.

Armstrong says it's hard to believe that in 2010, "there are people still trying to get access to information — just like everyone else — but they're doing it at turtle speeds, through dial-up." Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit