Straddling the United States Broadband Issue

Understanding the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband plan begins with the Commission’s eight page Action Agenda. The FCC’s Connect America website is filled with graphics and charts to advance the government’s position or that of Chairman Julius Genachowski. The site has the Commission’s plans laid out for each quarter of the year.

The opponents and proponents of the initiative follow lines dividing new and traditional media. However before choosing sides just learning the basics should be the first effort. The best source I’ve found is the New York Times Op-Ed article by Yochai Benkler, Harvard Law professor and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Benkler concludes the FCC lacks the political will to make the United States competitive in delivery of broadband to citizens.

“The Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan… is aimed at providing nearly universal, affordable broadband service by 2020. And while it takes many admirable steps — including very important efforts toward opening space in the broadcast spectrum — it does not address the source of the access problem: without a major policy shift to increase competition, broadband service in the United States will continue to lag far behind the rest of the developed world.”

The Harvard Law professor now criticizes the same federal agency for which he and his Berkman Center colleagues wrote a more than 300-page study.

The NYT opinion posits Internet access is less expensive and twice as fast in the rest of the developed world. Benkler points out in France high definition television, unlimited and international phone calling to numerous countries, wireless laptop and smart phone access are all bundled into a package costing about $33 USD a month.

A federal appeals court dashed the FCC’s initial plan to roll out high speed connections to 100-million U.S. households by the end of the decade. Chairman Genachowski sidesteps the court action and comes up with a third way to continue his plans. Broadcast Newsroom Computing examines the Chairman’s latest action next.

James Rowe

Rowe and Company, LLC

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