President Must Get Serious to Meet Universal Broadband Goal

I wrote an op-ed for the Wireless Internet Institute urging President Bush to support the Community Broadband Act of 2005 sponsored by Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John McCain (R-AZ) and "network neutrality" provisions in the Telecommunications Act rewrite because they are the keys to his universal broadband goal.

Taking questions at a speech in Virginia last week, President Bush was surprised to hear that some members of Congress are trying to kill local governments’ efforts to deploy broadband-wireless networks. According to a transcript, he responded, "It's interesting you said that because I laid out the opposite vision, which was that broadband ought to be available and accessible all throughout the country by a set period of time."

The president is right to observe that municipal Wi-Fi is the key to universal broadband. Unfortunately, he has not put his political capital where his mouth is. In the five years since he took office, the United States has fallen from 3rd in the world to 15th in broadband penetration. In about one fifth of the country—rural areas—broadband is not available at all, and incumbent cable and telephone companies appear to have no motivation to provide it.


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