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At Kickoff of FCC Workshops, Genachowski Calls Broadband ‘Infrastructure Challenge of the Generation’

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Editor’s Note: has been actively covering the workshops of the Federal Communications Commission as the agency prepares its national broadband plan. We have covered all of the workshops since late August. In preparation for assembling the complete collection of articles, reporters are returning to the beginning of the of workshops, on August 6, 2009. To see the complete collection of articles, click here.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski began the first in an extensive series of agency workshops on August 6, 2009, with a statement about that the workshops were intended to evaluate how increased broadband internet access could improve the efficiency and transparency of government.

“Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of our generation,” said Genachowski. “It is to us what railroads, electricity, highways, telephones were to previous generations.” Chairman Genachowski explained that broadband will serve as “a platform for commerce, for addressing major national problems, and for civic engagement.”

Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra elaborated on the promise of increased broadband access and how it could increase the efficiency of the federal government through crowd-sourced applications and increased teleworking programs.

Kundra held up the Patent and Trademark Office and Government Accountability Office as models of broadband-centric innovation in government. He said other government agencies could cut costs and maintain robust continuity of government plans through increased telework programs.

Graham Richard, former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, described his experience increasing broadband penetration in Fort Wayne. As mayor, Richard implemented numerous broadband-centric networking programs which reduced crime and streamlined the delivery of city services.

Digital mapping technology through Geographic Information Systems reduced the time needed to fill potholes from four days to four hours. On-line learning options dramatically increased the number of courses available to local students through collaboration with local universities.

When asked what advantages he thought increased broadband access brought to work environments, Richard said “the workroom environment serves to bring people together so they can convene, connect, and collaborate' to create new solutions for today's problems. What broadband does is increase that space for innovation a factor of a million.”

Government transparency was the final focus of the workshop. Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute noted the Obama-Coburn bill's success in publishing all non-classified federal contracts online. Ornstein and John Wonderlich of the Sunlight Foundation expressed interest in current efforts to require the publishing of earmarks online though no such legislation has been introduced in either chamber.

The Internet's effect on campaign finance, community activism, and public information campaigns were also discussed at the FCC workshop. The next workshop, on August 12, 2009, focused on issues relating to the deployment of wired broadband infrastructure.

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