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Dawn DiPietro

Smith pitches 'Broadband for America Act'
Says bill would promote affordable rural networks
Posted: 7:36 AM, Apr. 25, 2006
Last Updated: 7:45 AM, Apr. 25, 2006

By news sources

WASHINGTON - Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., addressed the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association's Legislative and Policy Conference on Tuesday and outlined his Broadband for America Act of 2006. The proposal is a ‘disciplined' and ‘directed' piece of legislation that the Senate can swiftly pass to promote the construction of new broadband networks in rural America.

"To succeed in a global marketplace American firms need access to affordable broadband networks," Smith said. "Leaving outdated laws on the books stalls job creation and inhibits the introduction of wireless technology that can be utilized in parts of America today's technology will never reach. Today's laws choke job creation with regulation and hold back innovation that proves time and time again to improve consumer's options."

Senator Smith's legislation promotes the construction of broadband infrastructure by addressing the following critical issues:

--Burdensome Video Regulations: Will allow wireline video providers to compete on equal footing by freeing them of unnecessary federal, state, and local regulations that have inhibited their entrance into the market. The legislation maintains local authority over rights of way and local programming requirements.

--Universal Service Reform: Creates a new account to invest $500 million a year in broadband infrastructure for areas private investment are reluctant to reach. Expands USF contributors to include any company capable of supporting 2-way voice communication. Low volume users and low income households would be exempted.

--Permanently Exempt USF Fund: Permanently exempts the Universal Service Fund from the Anti-Deficiency Act, allowing programs like the E-rate to continue.

--Municipal Broadband: Allows municipalities to band together and offer affordable broadband service in areas where private companies cannot or will not provide service.

--Wireless Broadband and White Spaces: Instructs the FCC to issue final rules within six months allocating white spaces on an unlicensed basis along with technical guidelines that prevent radio interference. Final rules will break way for low-cost broadband service, especially in rural areas too expensive to serve by wire.

Smith noted, "The Broadband for America Act is a targeted legislative package that draws on the best thinking of Senators Rockefeller, Dorgan Allen, Snowe, Lautenberg, McCain and myself. The bill combines my Video Choice Act and Universal Service for the 21st Century Act with Senator Allen's Wireless Innovation Act, Senator Snowe's Anti-Deficiency Act bill and Senator Lautenberg and McCain's Community Broadband Act."

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