If the government would just stay out of things....

-----Original Message-----
Behalf Of Peter R.
Sent: Thursday, November 09, 2006 3:38 AM
To: WISPA General List
Subject: [WISPA] America's InternetDisconnect

FCC Commissioner Mike Copps writes an editorial for the Wash. Post


America's Internet Disconnect

By Michael J. Copps
Wednesday, November 8, 2006; Page A27

America's record in expanding broadband communication is so poor that it
should be viewed as an outrage by every consumer and businessperson in the
country. Too few of us have broadband connections, and those who do pay too
much for service that is too slow. It's hurting our economy, and things are
only going to get worse if we don't do something about it.

The United States is 15th in the world in broadband penetration, according
to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). When the ITU measured a
broader "digital opportunity" index (considering price and other factors) we
were 21st -- right after Estonia. Asian and European customers get home
connections of 25 to 100 megabits per second (fast enough to stream
high-definition video). Here, we pay almost twice as much for connections
that are one-twentieth the speed.

How have we fallen so far behind? Through lack of competition. As the
Congressional Research Service puts it, U.S. consumers face a "cable and
telephone broadband duopoly." And that's more like a best-case scenario:
Many households are hostage to a single broadband provider, and nearly
one-tenth have no broadband provider at all.

For businesses, it's just as bad. The telecom merger spree has left many
office buildings with a single provider -- leading to annual estimated
overcharges of $8 billion. Our broadband infrastructure should be a reason
companies want to do business in the United States, not just another reason
to go offshore.

The stakes for our economy could not be higher. Our broadband failure places
a ceiling over the productivity of far too much of the country. Should we
expect small-town businesses to enter the digital economy, and students to
enter the digital classroom, via a dial-up connection? The Internet can
bring life-changing opportunities to those who don't live in large cities,
but only if it is available and affordable.

Even in cities and suburbs, the fact that broadband is too slow, too
expensive and too poorly subscribed is a significant drag on our economy.
Some experts estimate that universal broadband adoption would add $500
billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.2 million jobs.

Future generations will ultimately pay for our missteps. Albert Einstein
reportedly quipped that compound interest is the most powerful force in the
universe. Investment in infrastructure is how a nation harnesses this
awesome multiplier. Consider that 80 percent of the growth in
fiber-to-the-home (super-high-speed) subscribers last year was not in the
United States but in Japan. One does not need Einstein's grasp of
mathematics to understand that we cannot keep pace on our current

I don't claim to have all the answers. But there are concrete steps
government must take now to reverse our slide into communications

To begin with, the Federal Communications Commission -- of which I am a
member -- must face up to the problem. Today the agency's reports seem
designed mostly to obscure the fact that we are falling behind the rest of
the world. The FCC still defines broadband as 200 kilobits per second,
assumes that if one person in a Zip code area has access to broadband then
everyone does and fails to gather any data on pricing.

The FCC needs to start working to lower prices and introduce competition. We
must start meeting our legislative mandate to get advanced
telecommunications out to all Americans at reasonable prices; make new
licensed and unlicensed spectrum available; authorize "smart radios" that
use spectrum more efficiently; and do a better job of encouraging "third
pipe" technologies such as wireless and broadband over power lines. And we
should recommend steps to Congress to ensure the FCC's ability to implement
long-term solutions.

We need a broadband strategy for America. Other industrialized countries
have developed national broadband strategies. In the United States we have a
campaign promise of universal broadband access by 2007, but no strategy for
getting there. With less than two months to go, we aren't even within
shouting distance.

The solution to our broadband crisis must ultimately involve public-private
initiatives like those that built the railroad, highway and telephone
systems. Combined with an overhaul of our universal service system to make
sure it is focusing on the needs of broadband, this represents our best
chance at recapturing our leadership position.

It seems plain enough that our present policies aren't working. Inattention
and muddling through may be the path of least resistance, but they should
not and must not represent our national policy on this critical issue.

The writer is a Democratic member of the Federal Communications Commission.

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