Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

U.S. Broadband Infrastructure Viewed as Important as Highways, Bridges

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

U.S. Broadband Infrastructure Viewed as Important as Highways, Bridges

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * With the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama issuing broad hints as to what could appear in an economic stimulus package, much of the attention has focused on infrastructure needs such as roads, highways and bridges.

Yet there is another kind of infrastructure that has a place in the planned stimulus bill: broadband infrastructure--to the tune of $44 billion.

Several groups, and a growing number of them, have noticed in recent years how the United States has fallen behind other industrialized nations in the percentage of the area of the country that is, in a manner of speaking, "wired" for wireless.

People in some regions of the country are still stuck with dial-up service via phone lines for their computers because no other options exist, meaning they're faced with tedious waits to communicate via computer or have to get up in the middle of the night, when fewer people are using the available phone lines, to transact business.

Wireless devices use methods such as radio frequencies or microwave communication to transmit information, rather than phone lines.

Katherine Grincewich, associate general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that if $44 billion for broadband is approved in a stimulus package said to be nearing $1 trillion, key to the measure is oversight.

A Dec. 22 statement issued by representatives of dozens of public-interest

groups said the same.

"Until now, U.S. policy has been to largely rely on the private market, particularly incumbent large telephone and cable companies, to determine who has access, what they pay for it and the speed of U.S. broadband infrastructure. This approach has failed," said the statement.

"They're saying, 'Don't just hand it over to the corporations who have done such a poor job,'" Grincewich said about creating the broadband infrastructure.

The farm bill enacted earlier in 2008 had some provisions for bringing broadband to rural America, but the money allotted would not have finished the job.

During a 2006 address to the Catholic Media Convocation in Nashville, Tenn. …

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