The Rich Get Richer: Verizon Ups FiOS to 150 Mbps

Updated: Verizon Communications (s vz) today announced an even faster tier of fiber-to-the-home service: 150 Mbps down and 35 Mbps up. For folks like myself still stuck on first generation DOCSIS cable or plain old DSL, the digital divide grew by a couple of feet. But for the lucky 12.5 million people living in an area where Verizon’s FiOS service is available, by the end of this year, they will have the fastest broadband from a major ISP in the nation for an eye-popping $194.99 per month (to get that price you need to sign up for Verizon voice service as well as commit to a one-year contract). Small businesses can purchase the service as well. Verizon will continue to offer its other FiOS service tiers that go all the way down to a 15 Mbps down/5 Mbps up offering.

Update: Shame on me for saying Verizon has the fastest broadband in the nation when I so clearly know better. For those that want more details, check out this post, this post and this post with details on other fast service providers in the U.S. For folks providing faster speeds internationally check out this list.

For those wondering what 150 Mbps is good for (other than bragging rights), Verizon says:

With a downstream speed of 150 Mbps, consumers can download a two-hour, standard-definition movie (1.5 gigabytes) in less than 80 seconds, and a two-hour HD movie (5 GB) in less than four and a half minutes. Downloading 20 high-resolution photographs (100 megabytes) would take less than five and a half seconds using the 150/35 Mbps service. With the 35 Mbps upstream speed, consumers can upload those same 20 high-resolution photos in less than 23 seconds.

Verizon said the faster service is all part of plans to bring services like remote backup, 3-D television and real-time video conferencing to the home. It also said it will eventually pass 18 million homes with its service. However, in a nation with about 115 million households, according to U.S. Census estimates, there are plenty who won’t get FiOS speeds. Sure, cable providers have pledged to bring out faster DOCSIS 3.0 technology by 2013 for much of the nation, which is currently delivering speeds of about 100 or 50 Mbps down and 15 Mbps up. And there’s Google’s (s goog) small fiber-to-the-home efforts, as well as municipal fiber to the home, but the race for better wireline broadband doesn’t feel like a priority. At the federal level, we have a goal of delivering 100 Mbps down to 100 million households by 2020, but that’s a goal in the same way managing to brush my teeth every morning is goal. It’s going to happen— and it’s not going to take a lot of effort or thought.

By letting companies such as Verizon set the pace of our broadband speed, the country lets ISPs set the pace of innovation in many ways. In areas where Verizon and cable aren’t battling for the title of the fastest provider, the speed of broadband connections isn’t rising as quickly and the costs aren’t going down. Sure, mobile Internet is the future, but wireline broadband is the platform on which mobile has to rest, for both offloading data and for the backhaul. Plus, for truly immersive virtual experiences, the home, schoolroom or work is still going to be the place one settles down for an intensive online session. So while Verizon’s speed boost announced today is a huge win for the 12.5 million customers who could get it, for the killer applications to develop and the end prices of such fast service to drop, the rest of the country has to see similar offerings as well. I hope it’s soon, because my 7 Mbps down and 480 kbps up have me realizing I’m on the wrong side of the divide.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Tycho Moon

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