The Broadband Commission for Digital Development was created to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015, as set by the United Nations. Towards that end, it is essential that countries everywhere are enabled with widespread broadband to reap the economic and social benefits of broadband. This article explores the benefits that broadband brings.
Michael Copps of the FCC said that the US needs a “broadband czar” to coordinate how government agencies promote broadband. At a recent meeting in North Carolina to promote the state’s spread of broadband, speakers emphasized the need for a coordinated effort in the US in order to compete worldwide. Meanwhile in the US, broadband penetration approached 90% in May, only a rounding error away. Overall, US broadband penetration in less than 60% among US households, and is ranked 17th worldwide.
The FCC has identified key broadband gaps in US broadband policy. A Harvard study commissioned by the FCC found that open access to broadband lines through local loop “unbundling” is one key factor in fostering widespread adoption of broadband in the US and other countries. Meanwhile in the US broadband penetration among active Internet users grew to 93.27%.
President-elect Obama is calling for a massive $850 billion or more economic stimulus package to jump start the US economy and rebuild neglected infrastructure. As part of this plan the Obama administration has pledged to deploy next-generation broadband to every community in America. What the new administration has not offered is more specifics on their plan to achieve broadband for all. The Free Press has put forth a $44 billion plan to achieve universal broadband availability for the United States.
The FCC has approved the regulated use of the “white spaces” between and among the unused analog TV channels, for unlicensed devices. With the transition to digital television by February 2009, the soon to be empty analog channels can be used for other purposes. Some estimate that wireless providers could use the lower frequency TV spectrum to provide universal broadband access for every household in America for as little as $10 per month (Calabrese and Scott 2006). In other news, among active Internet users, broadband penetration in the US grew to 92.08% in October 2008, up 0.28 percentage points over last month.
At current growth rates, broadband penetration among active Internet users should break 90% by mid-2008 in the U.S. Overall, broadband penetration is 57% in U.S. households, according to a recent Leichtman Research survey. In a related study by Connected Nation, the U.S. could realize an economic impact of $134 billion annually by accelerating broadband availability across all states.
Sixty-four million people now have broadband access across the 25 countries of the European Union – but the gap between the best and worst performers is widening (see Figure 1). Denmark, the Netherlands, and Finland lead the European Union in broadband penetration while Greece, Slovakia, and Poland trail according to a recent broadband survey by ECTA. Back in the US, broadband penetration among active Internet users neared 75% in August 2006.
President Bush’s goal of universal broadband access for all Americans by 2007 appears to be overly optimistic, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. The GAO study found that only 28% of Americans had broadband in 2005.
AT&T and BellSouth are lobbying Congress to create a two-tier Internet where their own services would be transmitted faster than their competitors. The battle is largely over video transmission, which requires prioritized delivery for the larger bundles of bits needed for smooth display. Google, Yahoo, and others major sites are fighting the legislation that Congress is considering. In other broadband news some hotels are blocking VoIP, 1 in 10 Xmas cards are sent over the Internet, and broadband penetration in the US rose to 64.89% in November 2005.
The Free Press, Consumers Union, and the Consumer Federation of America respond to the July FCC report with a report titled “Broadband Reality Check” claiming that the US government is stifling broadband competition in favor of the DSL/Cable duopoly. Meanwhile, the US has dropped from 13th to 16th worldwide in broadband penetration. In July, US broadband penetration jumped 1.35 percentage points to 59.92% among active Internet users. By August, US broadband penetration should break 60%.