THE COMMISSION RECOMMENDS:
Set ambitious standards for nationwide broadband availability and adopt public policies encouraging consumer demand for broadband services.
The Commission endorses the view of the Federal Communications Commission that all Americans, urban and rural, should have affordable access to robust broadband services. However, the federal government’s current embrace of broadband services, including economic stimulus for rural broadband services improvements, is insufficient to ensure the United States will reach full-fledged universal digital citizenship.
All Americans should have access to high-speed Internet service wherever and whenever they need it. In part, this means wireless access that can extend beyond home, work, and community centers. In their homes, however, consumers should have access to affordable Internet service capable of receiving and transmitting video programming with picture and sound quality comparable to the range of high-definition programming they receive over cable and satellite television systems in most American communities. To this end, the Commission endorses the government’s use of financial incentives to help spur broadband deployment in areas where it has lagged because of market economics. The cost of such system upgrades for wired and wireless Internet services will likely be counted in the tens of billions of dollars. But not to make such an investment, we believe, will cost the nation significantly more in the years to come in lost competitiveness worldwide.
Government and commercial telecommunications firms have various levers to accomplish this goal (including subsidies and regulatory policies), but the Commission does not recommend using any one of these over the others. We simply note that many nations that lead in broadband deployment have used strategic incentives to encourage development of high speed Internet service. Toward this end, the federal government should determine systematically the kinds of Internet connectivity American households have, looking at speed, cost, the service providers involved, and whether access is wire-based or wireless.
Communities cannot realize the full benefit of broadband deployment, however, unless people actually connect to broadband networks. The Commission thus encourages public support for the development of applications that will make broadband service more attractive. If all Americans regardless of age, ethnicity, income, or geography believe that broadband service will genuinely help them to address issues of everyday life, they will likely use that service in greater numbers.55
The Commission endorses these suggestions as elements of an overall leadership strategy to make broadband adoption as rewarding and universal as possible.