FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski’s speech at the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) winter meetings today stressed our country’s need for a robust and inclusive broadband infrastructure and discussed the upcoming National Broadband Plan.
Genachowski’s Speech at NARUC
“Broadband: Our Enduring Engine for Prosperity and Opportunity”
I’ve pulled out some highlights below.
Genachowski really gets our need for broadband and how it will change the fundamental nature of business, education, communication, and social structure for the US. He brings up the comparison of the Internet to the interstate highway system and finds it lacking:
Some compare high-speed Internet to building the interstate highway system in the 1950s. It’s a tempting comparison, but imperfect.In terms of transformative power, broadband is more akin to the advent of electricity. Both broadband and electricityare what some call “general purpose technologies”–technologies that are a means to a great many ends, enabling innovations in a wide arrayof human endeavors. Electricity reshaped the world–extending dayinto night, kicking the Industrial Revolution into overdrive, and enabling the invention of a countless number of devices and equipment that today we can’t imagine being without.
Speaking of business connectivity, he says:
…many small businesses do not have access to a basic broadband connection. One estimate indicates that 26 percent of rural business sites do not have access to a standard cable modem and 9 percent don’t have DSL. More than 70 percent of small businesses have little or no mobile broadband.
He mentioned an exciting initiative from the Broadband Plan:
Our plan will set goals for the U.S. to have the world’s largest market of very high-speed broadband users. A “100 Squared” initiative–100 million households at 100 megabits per second–to unleash American ingenuity and ensure that businesses, large and small, are created here, move here, and stay here.
He follows that with a call to “stretch beyond 100 megabits” as Google is doing with its gigabit testbed initiative. Read that as a subtle message to incumbents that they should start looking at stretching their capabilities to get people connected at ultra-high-speeds.He also mentions tweaking the Universal Service Fund as a “once-in-a-generation transformation… cutting waste, driving efficiencies, and converting it over time to broadband support so that all Americans can enjoy the benefits of 21st century communications networks.” In other words, he says, we treat broadband just like President Roosevelt treated telephone service when he signed the 1934 Communications Act.
Genachowski’s understanding that broadband should be equivalent to electricity and telephony is the key of these remarks. The benefits of ubiquitous broadband will far outweigh the costs in building out the infrastructure. Our political leaders, both Republicans and Democrats, need to get this and must fund wisely the projects that will achieve the task.