How to Become the Most Connected Nation on Earth
Last week, my colleague David Cohen previewed the FCC’s efforts to develop a National Broadband Plan. Monday was the day when the FCC began receiving comments from the public, and they’ve been flooded with thousands of (virtual) pages responding to the hundreds of questions the Commission asked. You can read Comcast’s comments here.
Broadband is changing everything in America: how we work, learn, and pay our bills; how we order our prescriptions and renew our driver’s licenses; how we communicate with friends, family and strangers around the world – by text, by voice, by photos and videos and social networks. Broadband increases productivity and improves government services and the delivery of healthcare. Increasingly, we will rely on broadband to manage our nation’s electric grid, reduce our need to commute or travel on business, and – of course – entertain and inform ourselves in new and exciting ways. And broadband promises to be a major input in our nation’s economic recovery.
For these and many other reasons, we believe that the single most important thing the FCC can do is to make sure that every American has the chance to obtain and use broadband Internet service. We think that there should be two top priorities for the plan: (1) getting broadband Internet service in front of the roughly 10 million homes in the U.S. that don’t have access to it (i.e., it doesn’t go by the front door), and (2) breaking down the barriers to "adoption" (i.e., subscribing to broadband Internet service) in the roughly 40 million households that have access to it but don’t subscribe.
As those numbers suggest, "adoption" is four times as big a challenge as "access," and we think it deserves commensurate attention. If we pursue smart, cost-effective policies to close the geographic gap and the adoption gap, then (as David Cohen put it) "America will soon become the most connected nation on Earth."
Our comments to the FCC emphasize that a National Broadband Plan cannot belong to the FCC alone. The entire Federal government has a role to play. In this broadband age, too many of our agencies of government still have narrowband policies – they have not fully embraced the potential efficiencies, savings, and quality improvements that broadband Internet service can bring to how the departments of government operate and how they serve the public.
We’ve gleaned dozens of good ideas – from states like Oregon and California that have taken a holistic approach to broadband, from think-tanks like the Aspen Institute and the Information Technology and Information Foundation, and from our own experience – on ways to change government policies to take maximum advantage of broadband. We’ve encouraged the FCC to tap expertise from the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors to build a winning Plan. And we’ve reminded the FCC that Comcast has done its part to bring broadband everywhere – today’s news about the introduction of Extreme 50 in the D.C. area is just the latest example — and that we’re prepared to keep investing and innovating to expand the reach, the speed, and the capacity of our broadband networks, competing head-to-head with phone, wireless and satellite companies to provide the best broadband Internet experience.
We’d welcome your thoughts on the ideas we shared with the FCC. And we’ve already started reading the comments that others have filed with the FCC, about which we’ll write more in the next few days.