On the Road to a Broadband Nation
Tired of asking "Are we there yet?" Communities across the United States are rolling out sophisticated broadband technologies to take the future for a test-drive. Here's where you'll find them.
By Om Malik

(Business 2.0) – [THIS ENTIRE ARTICLE IS A COMPLEX ILLUSTRATION. SEE PDF OR HARDCOPY OF MAGAZINE]

The future seldom announces itself, even when it's already here. Consider what's happening with broadband Internet access. Advanced technologies like high-speed cable, wireless data networks, 3G cellular, and supercharged copper wires are ushering in a new era of interactivity. It's become routine to play a game of video baseball with a pal across the country, or download movies from Movielink or CinemaNow, or build a digital jukebox of 99-cent songs from iTunes. Yet all of that is just the beginning.

Half of all U.S. households will have broadband access by next year, with the portion climbing to 75 percent by 2010. Not surprisingly, the quantity of data being pumped into homes is also increasing. Next-generation DSL and passive optical-networking technologies will usher in data rates in the range of 24 megabits per second--nearly six times quicker than today's fastest cable modems. Thanks to new DSL chip designs, network speeds will climb to 100 Mbps by next year, according to research firm Technology Futures.

These projections are now the reality in a number of pilot projects scattered throughout the country. Tomorrow's connectivity turns up in unlikely places like Keller, Texas, where fiber-optic lines deliver 30 Mbps to every house in town. Or Daytona Beach, Fla., which is home to a fixed wireless network that blankets the city in a broadband cloud.

We scoured the nation to find communities like these--the cities and towns that sit on telecom's frontier. Like the railroads of the 19th century and the interstate highways of the 20th, the nationwide development of broadband networks is an engine of economic growth that will carry the United States into the decades ahead. The pages that follow offer an overview of the places that are moving fastest along this highway to the future.

FREE WI-FI HOTSPOTS

Top 5 Cities

Source: Jiwire

BROADBAND PENETRATION

Top 5 States

Sources: FCC; Telephony