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Archive for January, 2009

$6 Billion for Broadband in Obama’s Stimulus Package

Posted by prof e on January 26, 2009

BroadbandOne of the first tasks for the new administration is to propose and pass a stimulus package to kick-start the ailing economy. One small part of the package currently being proposed is about $6,000,000,000 for broadband internet service, particularly for the 7-8% of Americans living in rural and underserved areas where broadband is unavailable and dial-up connections provide only 56 kbps. The US has already fallen behind the developed world and stands at 15th in terms of number of broadband subscribers per 100 residents. According to a recent report, this is critically important because broadband creates jobs. According to the Brookings Institution, for every percentage point increase in broadband adoption, approximately 293,000 jobs are added.

Not only are we lagging behind in the global race for connectivity, our broadband connections are often much slower than what is available in other countries. According to one report, the median download speed in the U.S. is 2.35 Mbps. Compare that to Japan whose median speed is an amazing 63.60 Mbps. And while fiber optic to the home (FTTH) is one approach to increasing bandwidth, new technologies in the works for cable modems offer great promise at much lower cost. Using a technology called Docsis 3, several cable TV channels can be combined to offer Internet service approaching 1 gigabit per second. At that speed you could download a two hour Hollywood movie in well under a minute. But while entertainment media is the driving force behind broadband adoption, the stakes are high for less exciting, but more important tasks. Telemedicine,  better access to online education and telecommuting are clear benefits that stimulate the economy when high-speed connectivity is universally available.

One last related issue is the battle over network neutrality. This is the idea that digital data delivered over public and private networks should not be restricted, regulated or controlled except those controls that address legal issues such as copyright infringement and other illegal actions. It is very possible that this $6 billion infusion will come with requirements that the major telecommunications businesses that own the fiber optic networks, and ISPs, practice net neutrality.

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Posted in interactive media, new media, politics, regulation | 33 Comments »