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How to turn a world leader into a fourth-rate broadband economy

Filling in the wide open white spaces

It says that planning should then devolve to local state and regional task forces and that universal service revenues should be spent on broadband, not just on voice. Most advanced countries have a Universal Service Fund, which usually comes from a minor tax on existing lines, which is used to stimulate further advances. The $7.2bn stimulus funding is a good start, but there needs to be a permanent fund, it says.

The next suggestion is for tax incentives for operators that introduce faster internet speeds, which it says is how Japan and South Korea achieved world leadership in broadband, building nearly universal fiber-to the home networks capable of delivering 100 Mbps.

The report then listed key broadband applications which were out of reach. It said that broadband-enabled smart grids and smart meters can cut energy consumption, that online two-way video allows doctors to make virtual house calls and diagnose medical conditions at a distance and that high-speed connections enable students to take courses hundreds of miles away.

But the US is a long way from making these standard experiences, because of the poor condition of the broadband infrastructure. It also says that better and faster data transmission permits fire, police, and emergency personnel to exchange real-time video and data and called on Federal, state, and local policy makers to integrate broadband infrastructure and applications into delivery of education, health, job training, public safety, and other public services.

Which leads neatly to its next point, which is that no US child should be offline. A third of adults in the US do not use the Internet, and most of them do not own a personal computer. Surveys indicate that the biggest barriers to broadband adoption are lack of a computer, high cost of equipment and broadband access, lack of knowledge about how to use the technology, and lack of interest in existing broadband applications.

The federal broadband stimulus grants should provide important models to expand digital literacy, develop public-interest broadband applications and services, and provide affordable computers and broadband access equipment to low-income households.

The report’s next point is that the US must preserve free speech on the Internet and so keep it open, so that people can go where they want and download or upload what they want, when they want, on the Internet. There should be no unreasonable blocking of access to any websites, degradation of service, or censoring any lawful content on the Internet. And yet we still have US telco CEOs mumbling in public about net neutrality and what an evil it is.

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