In a month, the Federal Communications Commission will deliver a National Broadband Plan, as it was asked to do by Congress and the President in the Recovery Act.
This will be a meaningful plan for U.S. global leadership in high-speed Internet to create jobs and spur economic growth; to unleash new waves of innovation and investment; and to improve education, health care, energy efficiency, public safety, and the vibrancy of our democracy.
I believe this plan is vitally important to America’s future.
Studies from the Brookings Institute, MIT, the World Bank, and others all tell us the same thing -- that even modest increases in broadband adoption can yield hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Broadband empowers small businesses to compete and grow and will ensure that the jobs and industries of tomorrow are created in the United States.
The economic benefits of broadband go hand-in-hand with social benefits and the potential for vast improvements in the quality of life for all Americans.
The National Broadband Plan will describe concrete ways in which broadband can be a part of 21st century solutions to some of our nation’s most pressing challenges, including:
- Extending the availability and lowering the costs of quality care by putting digital health tools in the hands of doctors and hospitals across the country and removing geographic barriers for patient treatment.
- Providing our kids with a world class, 21st century education, connecting them to the global library and giving them the digital skills they need for the future.
- Making our electric grid smart and efficient and providing Americans with the information they need to make their homes and buildings smarter.
- Ensuring that law enforcement officers and first responders across the country have cutting-edge, reliable communications technologies to respond to emergencies efficiently and effectively.
These are real benefits for real people -- like the unemployed forty-seven-year-old I met in the Bronx who got job training over the Internet to become a telecom technician. And the employees of Blue Valley Meats, in the small town of Diller, Nebraska, which doubled its workforce and saw 40 percent growth by setting up a website and selling its beef online -- once Diller got broadband.
But right now, we are at a crossroads. For while the United States invented the Internet, when it comes to broadband we are lagging behind where we should be.
Roughly 14 million Americans do not have access to broadband, and more than 100 million Americans who could and should have broadband don’t. That’s an adoption rate of roughly 65 percent of U.S. households, compared with 88 percent adoption in Singapore, and 82 percent adoption in South Korea. The U.S. adoption rate is even lower among low-income, minority, rural, tribal, and disabled households.
This country can and must do better. In today’s global economy, leading the world in broadband is leading the world.
This is where the National Broadband Plan comes in. By setting ambitious goals and laying out proposals to connect all Americans to a world-class broadband infrastructure, we will help secure our country’s global competitiveness for generations to come.
The FCC’s National Broadband Plan will include the following key recommendations:
- 100 Squared Initiative: 100 million households at a minimum of 100 megabits per second (Mbs) -- the world’s largest market of high-speed broadband users -- to ensure that new businesses are created in America and stay in America.
- Broadband Testbeds: Encourage the creation of ultra high-speed broadband testbeds as fast, or faster, than any Internet service in the world, so that America is hosting the experiments that produce tomorrow’s ideas and industries.
- Digital Opportunities: Expand digital opportunities by moving our adoption rates from roughly 65 percent to more than 90 percent and making sure that every child in America is digitally literate by the time he or she leaves high school.
The quantitative and qualitative benefits of these proposals -- and the many others that the FCC’s plan will contain -- are vast. Connecting the country to higher speeds means more jobs, more innovation, and more economic growth.
The National Broadband Plan will chart a clear path forward -- ensuring that broadband is our enduring engine for creating jobs and growing our economy, for spreading knowledge and enhancing civic engagement, for advancing a healthier, sustainable way of life.
Pursuing the opportunity of universal broadband is, I believe, a universal goal. Our technology future is one that we can -- and must -- create together.