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

in Broadband's Impact/FCC Workshops/National Broadband Plan by

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.

An intern at the National Journalism Center, Mercy was a Reporter-Researcher for until November 2009. She was a business reporter on leave from the Daily Nation of Nairobi, Kenya. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Education from Daystar University in Nairobi.

1 Comment

  1. […] Yes to the former, no to the latter. Although I suggested in class the other day that penetration should no longer be the focus of broadband policy, there’s a flip side. Many people (including me) believe access to fast, affordable broadband must soon replace basic voice telephony as part of universal service policy, and there’s a long way to go on that score. On Thursday of last week, the FCC held another of its field meetings, this one in San Diego, and the big headline out of that session was what the panelists said about universality: the national broadband plan needs to focus on “the least, the last and the lost.” See the related story at […]

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