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National Broadband Plan: Serving the Last, the Least and the Lost

October 8, 2009 – The national broadband plan needs to focus on “the least, the last and the lost,” according to panelists participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s field hearing on mobile applications and radio-frequencies Thursday in San Diego, Calif. The “least” would include those in the lower income bracket, while the “last” are those in the outer limits of technology, panelists said.

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October 8, 2009 - The national broadband plan needs to focus on “the least, the last and the lost,” according to panelists participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s field hearing on mobile applications and radio-frequencies Thursday in San Diego, Calif.

The “least” would include those in the lower income bracket, while the “last” are those in the outer limits of technology, panelists said.

Education and literacy is probably the main key to reaching the “lost,” who are mainly the people who have not understood the value of broadband in their lives.

Rey Ramsey, president of the non-profit group One Economy, added that mobile applications enable people to improve their lives using broadband.

“We need a purposeful approach to involve minorities in the national plan, since these groups have been slow in the adoption of the technology,” Said Ramsey. More work also needs to be done to build awareness on the benefits of broadband.

The national broadband plan currently under consideration by the FCC should also focus on maximizing opportunities for populations that have previously not been using broadband, panelists said.

High rates of internet connectivity can be used to improve consumers’ compliance with environmentally-friendly choices.

“We need to ask ourselves what we need to do in order to help lift the low income people through connection to broadband,” Ramsey said.

Egil Gronstad, vice president of technology planning for Leap Wireless – whose company sells voice and data to low-income and younger users – said that almost half of their subscribers have not previously purchased voice or data.

“This could be due to the high costs, but we are selling to them at lower costs, with a monthly subscription of up to $40 being quite affordable for even those in the lower income bracket,” Gronstad said.

There is a growing appetite for  mobile data as new applications hit the market, he said. The amount of data consumed is expected to double every year per subscriber and this will in turn put a lot of stress on the existing network even with existing mobile enhancements.

“The new applications call for additional spectrum to sustain it and improve its speed,” said Gronstad. He also asked the FCC to avail spectrum to smaller and mid-size internet providers in order to promote the provision of  high quality internet services to consumers.

Doing so would be especially useful in order to serve the tribal communities that are mostly in the rural areas that are unreached essential services such as the Internet, he said.

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