The future of broadband is…copper POTS?

POTS is industry jargon for Plain Ol’ Telephone Service — the kind that comes to your home via copper wire that may be older than you are.

Fiber to the home was supposed to be the path to digital media nirvana. But that was a meme borne during the dot-com bubble, and it turns out that replacing the U.S.’s 1.5 billion miles of existing copper lines might be not only fiscally irresponsible, but also not necessary.

Tests in engineering labs and in a handful of areas around the country are yielding Internet connection speeds five to 50 times as fast as what is now considered “broadband” digital-subscriber-line service offered over phone lines.

Which is good, since John John M. Cioffi, a professor of engineering at Stanford University and one of the country’s foremost experts on DSL technology, notes:

Even if [the phone companies] had the money, the labor is exhaustive. Realistically, fiber could be a century away.

Wow. “Not in your lifetime” estimates are kind of depressing, aren’t they?

The article also notes that, in the U.S., 9.4 million subscribers get broadband over cable, and 5.4 million over DSL.