A Framework For A National Broadband Policy (report)

Aspen InstituteIn a new report from the Aspen Institute Professor Philip Weiser of the University of Colorado at Boulder offers a series of specific and concrete policy recommendations for expanding access, affordability, and adoption of broadband in the United States.

The report pulls together two sets of discussions and an array of
background readings to outline a new direction for a U.S. national
broadband policy. The Aspen Institute Communications and Society
Program convened a top-flight group of academics, policymakers, and
industry leaders for two conferences—one on the Wye River in
Maryland, May 17-18, 2007, and another in Aspen, Colorado, August
15-18, 2007—to discuss the future of American broadband policy.

Throughout both sets of discussions, there was a remarkable degree of
consensus on the fundamental point that access to and adoption of
broadband connectivity is a national imperative to ensure the greatest
opportunities for economic growth, national competitiveness (vis-à-vis
other nations), cultural and creative development, and our aspirations for
a fully educated and engaged citizenry. The participants agreed on the
foundational point that broadband connectivity allows every American
to participate effectively in today’s information society, using widely
available information and communications technologies that enable
themto bemore effective producers and consumers of information. The
more difficult issues, the participants observed, include how to:
1) Identify and advance strategies for promoting the widespread
availability of broadband connectivity (access);
2) Ensure that broadband is as affordable as possible; and
3) Promote the wide adoption and use of broadband for an array
of applications.

In a notable development, broadband has enabled all kinds of communities
to develop online. For example, McLaughlin reported that
Google had underestimated the community aspect of broadband video
in developing its Google Videos service. YouTube, on the other hand,
realized that it was all about community, and built several features to
enable sharing and commenting. Sounding a similar theme, Susan
Crawford, law professor at the Cardozo School and board member of
the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN),
emphasized that “the Internet is more than just a supply chain or distribution
vehicle; it is group-forming.”
The ability of online communities and businesses to develop highlighted
an important feature of broadband technology: its benefits to
society far exceed the benefits recouped by the providers who build
broadband networks. William Webb, senior technologist at OfCom (a
telecommunications regulator in the UK), noted that the existence of
social benefits above private benefits means that the market is likely to
under-produce this good and thus creates a rationale for government to
step in and support the building of basic infrastructure.

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