Friday, November 20, 2009

D.C. meetings look at barriers to rural broadband, proposed policy for universal Internet access

Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Rural Development, Biotechnology, Specialty Crops and Foreign Agriculture met to discuss progress made by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce to award grants to expand broadband access in rural areas. Chairman Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., described rural broadband as "an investment that can create jobs, improve communities, and change lives" in a news release, but Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Conaway said the arbitrary deadline set by Congress is resulting in a flawed process. (Read more)

The Federal Communications Commission held meetings Wednesday to discuss enacting a national broadband policy to provide high-speed Internet access for every American. The FCC task force charged with developing the plan has identified several barriers to universal broadband service, Marguerite Reardon of CNet reports. The task force believes money from the Universal Service Fund, originally set up as extra charges on consumers' phone bills, should be used to assist broadband deployment. Currently the fund only assists voice services.

Large gaps in broadband service still exist among geographic areas and income groups. Reardon reports that many low-income areas only have one broadband provider, causing high prices, and nearly 90 percent of families with annual incomes greater than $100,000 per year subscribe to broadband services, while only 35 percent with incomes of $20,000 or less do. The task force also said deployment in rural areas is often delayed by high costs of infrastructure and maintaining service. (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In Miller County, MO, rural customers of AT&T have been told they will never get high speed Internet if they are further than 1,500 feet from a "central" office. We are less than a quarter of a mile from a huge fiber optic cable owned by AT&T, yet cannot get high speed Internet for our business.