Dark fiber could provide faster Internet to schools and libraries

A teenager uses the Internet on a computer

The FCC is making decisions today that could have a big impact on how you use the Internet. Tuesday we told you about a plan to open unused parts of the broadcast spectrum to create new online tools and faster Wi-Fi. That unused area is called white space. Here's a new term: dark fiber.

Today, the FCC decides whether to approve a plan to make unused fiber optic cable, or dark fiber, available to schools and libraries. Much of the cable in question was installed during the boom days of the dot-com era a decade ago. But it was never used and is just sitting there.

The plan would be to connect that cable with schools so that they could be the Internet provider. Students would be able to be online with a very strong and fast connection either in the school building or at home. And people in the community, especially underserved communities that are being targeted by this plan, would be able to draw from the resource as well.

It's an idea that would take advantage of existing federal programs that set aside funds to reimburse communities for their investment in technology. Those programs, like the dark fiber, never really caught on, but FCC backers of this plan hope that's about to change.

We talk with Christian Sandvig about all this. He leads the Project on Public Policy and Advanced Communication Technology at the University of Illinois. He's also a faculty associate at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

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