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FCC to Boost Public Access to Broadband

Jim Puzzanghera and David Sarno - Mar. 16, 2010 12:00 AM
Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON - Declaring expansion of broadband Internet access the nation's next great infrastructure challenge, federal regulators on Monday unveiled an ambitious, decadelong strategy to make super-high-speed connections available in every corner of the country. The plan by the Federal Communications Commission sets a goal of making sure at least 100 million homes have affordable access to networks that allow them to download data from the Internet at speeds of at least 100 megabits per second - at least 20 times faster than what most people get today. The proposal, which will be sent to Congress, also seeks to put ultrafast Internet access of 1 gigabit per second in public facilities such as schools, hospitals and government buildings in every community.

The goal is to transform the nation's Internet infrastructure and make high-speed access affordable to everyone, the FCC said. The agency proposes to use wireless connections as a cheaper and quicker alternative to laying wires or fiber-optic cables to unserved areas. One of the plan's main objectives, it said, is to make the United States home to "the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation."

The plan, which for the most part the FCC would implement, is expected to face opposition from broadcasters, who fear they would be forced to give up some of their airwaves. Telecommunications companies and some Republicans in Congress also are concerned about possible new regulations that, they warn, could stifle investment in expanding broadband networks.

Although the FCC made paper copies of the 356-page plan available to reporters Monday, it was not being released to the public until today.

"It's exciting that we have national attention on putting together a broadband plan after this issue had been dropped from the federal agenda for a number of years," said Karen Mossberger, a professor of public administration at the University of Illinois-Chicago, who studies broadband availability
 in the U.S.

"To date, just leaving things up to the market has not produced affordable broadband," she said, noting that Internet access is more expensive in the U.S. than at least a dozen other developed countries.

To read this article in the Arizona Republic, click here.