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U.S. Broadband Coalition Working Group Urges Federal Involvement to Stimulate Adoption

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WASHINGTON, November 16, 2009 – A working group of the non-profit U.S. Broadband Coalition on Friday released a report in which the group called for the federal government to “play an active role in stimulating adoption and use of advanced broadband connections.”

The group, one of six committees of the U.S. Broadband Coalition – which had gathered more than 160 organizations to push for a national broadband strategy – presented its finding at the Federal Communications Commission, after introductory remarks by Blair Levin, director of the FCC’s national broadband plan.

The coalition’s leadership spoke very positively about the prospects of inter-industry cooperation and identifying points for possible improvement. But the group generally avoided specifics about what should be done to fix these problems. The FCC’s Levin pointed out, “Our work is about gathering data…we’re not talking about solution sets right now, we’re putting that off until December.”

The U.S. Broadband Coalition presented its report on September 24, 2009, but the Adoption and Use Working Group sought further time to collect its thoughts into an extensive 54-page report on the subject.

In addition to promoting federal involvement in broadband adoption, the group urged “federal and state support should include programs, grants, subsidies, and other measures that foster broadband connectivity, computer access, education and training and that address barriers to effective use of broadband.”

The report sought to break the subject into the following five areas:

  • Bridging the Digital Divide
  • Addressing the Broadband Adoption Gap for People with Disabilities
  • Increasing the intensity of Broadband Use in Core Sectors of Our Economy
  • Raising the Bar on Skills and Ease of Use
  • Accelerating Innovation

“As leaders clearly understand the benefits of broadband, other sectors will follow,” said Harry Roesch of Rural Telecommunications Congress.

The U.S. Broadband Coalition began its work long before the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created a mandate for the FCC to develop a National Broadband Plan by February 17, 2010.

Since the passage of the legislation in February 2009, the coalition has focused on helping the FCC in its work. The coalition addressed the importance of interoperability alongside the other four “I” principles they find most integral to the expansion of broadband in the United States: inclusion, integration, interoperability, investment, and innovation. The policy presented by the coalition on Friday seek to promote these principles.

Panelists discussed different sectors where broadband is applicable, including education, healthcare, and public safety. They stressed the benefits of an industry where broadband effectively integrated into operation.

One example was the 911 emergency response system, which is currently a voice centric system that only utilizes analog voice technology. A switch to broadband could allow people in accidents to send texts, videos, or pictures to the response center. This would not only increase options for those in accidents, but would improve the information that emergency responders have to deal with.

“Broadband impacts every single step of that process… so there’s significant real-time broadband opportunities for public safety,” said Patrick Halley of the National Emergency Number Association. “There’s also non-real time opportunities training. We just hosted an event yesterday. We had a couple hundred public safety agencies connected online doing training about geographic information systems. So there’s non-real time benefits too,” he said.

The report’s co-chairs were Charles Benton, of the Benton Foundation; Link Hoewing, of Verizon Communications; Kenneth Peres, of Communications Workers of America; and Karen Archer Perry, of the Knight Center for Digital Excellence.

Officials at the event also commented on the timetable for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s process for broadband grants.

Recipients for the first round of funding should be named sometime mid-December. Comments on the request for information concerning the second round of funding are due November 30.

The FCC has also asked for public feedback on a series of questions about broadband adoption. Responses to this request are due December 2.

Editor’s Note: Comments on the request for information concerning the second round of broadband stimulus funding are due November 30, not November 23, as was previously stated. The article has been corrected.

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