WASHINGTON, July 15, 2009 - Widespread broadband deployment and adoption is essential to economic recovery as well as social justice, House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C. said Tuesday morning at the July BroadbandCensus.com Breakfast Club.
The recovery package planning process has been "one of the most rewarding experiences" Clyburn has had since joining the Congress, he said.
But while Clyburn compared the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to the New Deal programs of the 1930s, he soberly noted that many of the programs instituted by President Roosevelt left out minority communities like those he represents. “If you go back, you will notice most of the communities that I represent were left out," he said.
Broadband access in particular could help rural America in areas like health information technology, Clyburn said. If broadband deployment isn't done correctly, any national health care strategy will fail, he said.
Clyburn’s daughter Mignon Clyburn, formerly of the South Carolina Public Service Commission, has been nominated by President Obama for one of five slots on the Federal Communications Commission.
Mignon Clyburn’s Senate Confirmation hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
Following introductory remarks was a panel discussion on “How the FCC's National Broadband Plan Will Affect Spending.” The event was the final breakfast in a four-part series on the broadband stimulus program.
Barbara Esbin, senior fellow and director of the Center for Communications and Competition Policy at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, said that the FCC’s national broadband plan “will look like a larger framework with plans for other plans” and that “if the plan calls for legislation that plan will be in the future.”
Although what the NTIA and RUS have been able to do is “admirable,” many of the projects funded will end up as “case studies,” she said.
What is important, said Paula Boyd, regulatory counsel for Microsoft, is funding projects that are “long-lasting” and “allow for quick build-out and returns.” She noted that the broadband stimulus package passed in February 2009 calls for all spending decisions to be made by September 2010.
Boyd also favored a “lighter touch of regulation.” “To the extent [that] you foster innovation, you will drive demand for broadband,” she said.
One effective way to spend stimulus money would be to build high-capacity fiber deeply into every community, said Michael Calabrese, vice president of the New America Foundation and head of its Wireless Future Program.
Calabrese also recommend applying for a project that combined fiber in the so-called “middle mile” with wireless availability in the ”last mile” on the way to consumers’ homes. That would be the “best way to get the most coverage” serving community anchors by using fiber as a “jumping off point” for wireless deployments, too.
Brett Glass, founder of Lariet.Net, spoke of the importance of broadband to small businesses. “Every one of them benefits from the Internet,” he said.
Glass spoke of how his business tried to extend fiber to areas outside of college campuses.
At the time, he said, wholesale broadband costs were high. Although the problem has ameliorated, there still exist bottlenecks in the middle mile caused by limited competition to hook up with fiber backbones.
In response to a question about how rural states with “spotty” broadband should apply for grants, Glass said that state governments should facilitate broadband development but not apply for the grants themselves.
These broadband projects, said Boyd, “will be part of an ongoing progress.” Hopefully, they will “inform the ongoing discussion” and “inform what is needed in terms of capacity,” she said.
Editor's Note: Please see http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com for more information about the latest Broadband Breakfast Club series.