A Shared Goal to Bring Broadband to All Americans
By: Kyle McSlarrow, Cable Tech Talk
At a Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies meeting earlier this week, FCC Chairman Genachowski noted that America must measure our broadband progress not only by the ability to extend access to every home, but also by our success in encouraging minority communities, low-income families and under-privileged communities to make broadband part of their lives.
We couldn’t agree more. We have consistently argued that the combination of creative ways to spur investment in deployment, coupled with a strong programmatic focus on adoption, was priority #1. See my video blog from January here making these points. And it is why we are pleased to partner with nearly 100 other organizations this week to launch a new coalition – called Broadband for America – with a simple yet challenging goal: ensuring that broadband is available to, and used by, every household and business in America.
We have a very clear view about all this: Extraordinary private investment is what created, built, and sustains the future of broadband. Government policy should recognize this overarching reality and continue to support this framework. On the other hand, broadband adoption, while an amazing success with 63 percent of America connected, probably starts to get harder now and it will take a collaborative effort by all stakeholders, industry, civic groups, and government alike, to get to where we want to go.
Ten years ago, the cable industry made a commitment to bring broadband to consumers in the markets we serve, and our industry has already invested more than $145 billion so that 92 percent of all U.S. households can choose a cable broadband offering. Other telecom providers have spent hundreds of billions to deliver competitive broadband as well and the number of wired and wireless choices is steadily growing.
But in addition to our investment in fiber optics, routers and facilities, we are helping to close the adoption gap by partnering with civic, community and consumer organizations with a variety of projects that aim to jumpstart broadband use among diverse communities.
Through Cable in the Classroom, we’ve been a longtime leader in enabling consumers to use technology to enhance and expand learning. Our industry in the late 1980’s began wiring schools and libraries nationwide – originally providing free video service to more than 80,000 sites – but as our industry began deploying broadband in the late 90’s, operators installed broadband connections in thousands of schools and libraries across the country… typically for free.
Cable companies have also initiated unique community-based partnerships with a wide variety of organizations, developing programs that provide computers to low-income families; train senior citizens about how to use computers, email and the Internet; power inner-city computer labs that connect at-risk students and adults to essential online resources; and improve health care by enabling rural hospitals to quickly transmit high-resolution images to specialists worldwide. Various cable companies have formed great and sustained relationships with organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs, City Year and One Economy to pursue these goals. Hundreds of these effective partnerships exist in communities large and small across the U.S. But we’ll need hundreds more.
Over the coming weeks and months, Broadband for America will be telling a story that doesn’t get the attention it deserves because it doesn’t lend itself to provocative headlines. And, that is that the deployment of broadband has been an amazing American success story of investment, innovation, and creativity, and that all of us – industry, government and civic groups – are committed to making it better. Look for us to get the word out. But this is an interactive program – bring your best ideas on how to promote broadband adoption to www.broadbandforamerica.com and help us take on this challenge.