Towards a bigger, better broadband future

(Extended cross-post from Google Public Policy Blog)

Broadband deployment in the U.S. is at best disappointing and at worst a crisis. The United States lags behind other countries in broadband uptake per capita, ranked 15th in the latest Organisation for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) data. While consumers in Sweden and Japan are starting to zoom ahead with 20 and even 90 megabit/second connections delivered over fiber connections, U.S. consumers pay more for less, with only DSL and cable available in most markets. Some rural areas lack broadband altogether.

At a pre-conference yesterday before the “State of the Net” in Washington, D.C., the nonprofit association EDUCAUSE released a thoughtful proposal for how to achieve a better broadband future:

“[T]his paper proposes the creation of a new federal Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) that, together with matching funds from the states and the private and/or public sector, should be used to build open, big broadband networks of at least 100 Mbps (scalable upwards to 1 Gbps) to every home and business by 2012. U.S. state governors and foreign heads of state have found the resources to subsidize broadband deployment; the U.S. federal government should as well.”

Though some dispute how bad U.S. consumers have it, everyone can agree that the U.S. can – and should – do much better. Deploying faster, universal, and ubiquitous broadband is essential to sustaining the Internet as an engine for economic growth, innovation, and social discourse. Whether or not one agrees with EDUCAUSE’s particular strategy, the paper demonstrates that a clear, concerted national broadband strategy of some kind is required to reach that bigger, better broadband future.

You can read the whole paper here. I took notes at the conference, including the opening remarks of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, which you can read here.

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