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Which Is the Most Macho Broadband Plan?

Like the famous SNL skit from way back when, let's line up the contestants for "most impactful Broadband Plan in the Americas." Playing today are: the U.S., Brazil, Colombia and Chile. So which country is the Fernando Lamas of Broadband, and which is the PeeWee Herman?

Put another way, which countries are just making broadband plan promises and which are following through on the rhetoric?

For some background, we need to check in with Vinicius Caetano, senior analyst with Pyramid Research who presented his latest research at the Rio Wireless 2012 Conference.

Let's start with three of the leading broadband initiatives in Latin America, where only 8 percent of the population currently has access to fixed broadband services and even fewer (4 percent) have access to mobile broadband.

Brazil: Under its 2010 National Broadband Plan, Brazil plans to spend $7.5 billion with a goal to connect 72 percent of Brazil's households with broadband by 2014, with universal access to broadband Internet with minimum speeds of 1 Mbit/s at a cost of R$35 a month. And Brazil is planning a major spectrum auction next month to drive the mobile broadband future.

Colombia: Its "Viva Digital" plan involves outlays of $2.8 billion with a goal to have 50 percent of homes and 50 percent of small businesses connected to the mobile broadband Internet by 2014.

Chile: Its in the middle of a five-year broadband strategy plan where it's investing $100 million with the aim of providing broadband service to an additional 2.3 million people, including 90 percent of the people located in rural areas.

Now for the U.S. The 2010 plan called for 100 million homes access to 100 Mbit/s and upload speeds of 50 Mbit/s by 2020, and had a goal for every American to have access to affordable broadband service.

However, a recent study by TechNet, a group of technology CEOs, lamented that the energy and enthusiasm for the U.S. Broadband Plan is waning and that the percentage of American homes with access to broadband has only increased to 68 percent, up from 65 percent in 2009.

Further, during the last two years much of the hard work to drive this broadband growth is still being worked out, including getting additional spectrum for new mobile broadband services and finalizing changes in the Universal Service Fund that subsidizes rural telecom access. "The whole process has lost a lot of steam," notes Bernie Arnason, who watches the broadband scene for Telecompetitor.

So, which country is actually doing something about bringing broadband access to the masses? Obviously, the U.S. scale dwarfs the other countries, but the LATAM countries have the advantage of focus and more government-directed funding.

But if you had to pick a winner for most macho or real broadband plan, odds are it would be Brazil. For one reason, Caetano points out, Brazil is mandating specific performance goals from its carriers to ensure good broadband quality to customers. "The government won't give incentives to operators that do not deliver at least 60 percent of the total bandwidth users subscribe to," Caetano notes.

But perhaps even more important is the fact that the additional pressure of having the World Cup and the Olympics in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Nothing like the pressure of public embarrassment to focus government ministers' minds on the broadband problem.

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