Broadband Spurs for New Economy

Article excerpt

Byline: Billy Tauzin and John Dingell, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

There is a deepening consensus among technology experts that the deployment of broadband - super-fast, always-on Internet access - is proceeding far too slowly. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell recently called fixing this problem "the central communication policy objective of the day."

This week, the House of Representatives will weigh in on this issue when it finally takes up legislation we sponsored three years ago, with the aim of updating our telecommunications laws to enhance competition in the broadband market and speed deployment of high-speed Internet access to American homes and businesses.

Why do we think broadband is so important?

In many ways, the broadband build-out represents the same advance to today's information age that the construction of the Interstate Highway System did in the 1950s or the transcontinental railroad did in the 19th century: As the backbone of an enhanced information infrastructure, it will be the crucial network that will link together our economy and drive new advances in productivity and efficiency.

Many of America's largest corporations are reaping the benefits of broadband services right now, saving millions of dollars by streamlining their supply chains and reaching customers with innovative new marketing campaigns. Yet just 6 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses - the very enterprises that create most new jobs and employ most people in the United States - enjoy the advantages of this technology, according to the Precursor Group, an independent research firm. And only about 8 percent of American homes have high-speed Internet access.

Our bill, the Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act, is designed to accomplish three main goals: It would lift regulations that are inhibiting the build-out of a nationwide broadband network. It would give all technologies - whether telephone, cable, satellite or wireless - a chance to compete on an equal basis. And it would encourage the type of competition necessary to speed the deployment of broadband to America's homes and small businesses.

The issue is bigger than just its impact on the Internet, or even communications more broadly. Today's regulatory barriers to broadband are already having a negative impact on our economy by discouraging investment and delaying development of the next generation of Internet-based applications.

The subsequent decline in technology investment is hitting workers hard. So far, more than 1.3 million Americans have lost their jobs since the economy slipped into recession. …