WASHINGTON, June 22, 2010 – Walter B. McCormick, President and CEO of USTELECOM, delivered the first keynote address at the Roadmap to Broadband Adoption conference hosted by Broadband for America, the US Internet Industry Association, and NetLiteracy today.
McCormick’s speech followed remarks by Don Kent, the Chair of Net Literacy. During his remarks, Kent laid out a detailed set of prescriptions for how broadband adoption should be expanded, while warning against particular shortfalls and extolling the benefits of existing models. Kent specifically focused on two elements of what he saw as a successful broadband expansion plan: firstly, “demanding that broadband adoption investments are efficient and have a return on investment,” and secondly, “the importance of using a community-based approach.”
“While we need a mix of models since increasing broadband adoption is not a cookie cutter process, I believe that some models are inherently more effective than others, such as community-based programs in mobilizing a digital literacy corps,” Kent said. “I believe that a bottom-up approach to increasing broadband adoption to the tens of thousands of groups that have low broadband adoption is a more effective approach that will provide stronger adults and a higher ROI [Return on Investment] than a top-down approach.”
McCormick delivered his speech in broader strokes, and focused on the transformative power of Broadband technology, while taking a skeptical view of the regulatory process as a potential roadblock to innovation. At the outset, McCormick noted that , United States broadband adoption and telecommunications-related technological efficiency was still the most advanced at the global level.
“Indeed, when thinking of the internet, one is hard-pressed to think of significant innovations that have taken place beyond our borders,” McCormick said. “The first goal of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan is to increase the availability of fix-line broadband access from 95% to 100%, but the goal itself of reaching that final 5% implicitly highlights the accomplishment has has already been achieved in broadband coverage reaching 95% of American consumers and 97% of American businesses.”
Continuing on this note, McCormick noted that access to broadband coverage has been expanding at unprecedented levels among consumers, having become near-ubiquitous after about 9 years, relative to previous and what he saw as equally significant technological developments. “It took personal computers and cable television 20 years to reach this tipping point. It took cell phones sixteen years,” McCormick said. “Broadband is occurring at an unprecedented rate.”
Having begun by explaining the status quo, McCormick then moved to addressing the question of why broadband is not universal. His remarks touched on a variety of factors, while stressing that none of them is a universal cause for lack of access. McCormick especially saw price and access as lesser concerns.
“Certainly price and access matter, but for many these factors are not determinitive, and simply addressing price is not a panacea,” McCormick said. “Nearly 40% of those who choose not to have broadband say it’s because it’s simply not relevant in their lives.”
“The statistics from the FCC’s National Broadband Plan demonstrate the important impact that the positive, bipartisan, pro-investment regulatory environment has had on broadband deployment,” McCormick said. “But last week, the FCC proposed to dramatically change that environment. In a 3-2 vote that unfortunately split along party lines, the FCC began a proceeding that proposes to regulate broadband internet along 20th century monopoly regulation.”
“The good news is this: These are issues that all of us can get behind – the FCC, the administration, leaders in both parties in Congress all see quite clearly the potential that greater broadband adoption has for jobs, for our information economy, and for improving our quality of life,” McCormick said.