American Way: Broadband for All

We need stronger common access rules.

Its time for action on universal broadband deployment. Always-on, high-speed connectivity transforms the Net experience, providing chances for learning, communication and economic development that all citizens should have.

We support federal regulatory and incentive programs to make broadband Net access available and affordable to all. Thats why we welcome the Broadband Telecom Act of 2002 (S. 2448), introduced in the Senate in May by Sen. Ernest Hollings, D-S.C., and hope its pro-competitive approach prevails in national broadband strategy.

Research shows users love the broadband experience. Nielsen Media Research/NetRatings reported in January that while broadband users are only one-fifth of the 93 million Americans with Internet access, they account for half the time spent online. However, customers are being charged record prices for broadband access and have fewer and fewer choices in ISPs that offer that service. According to market research company ARS, cable and DSL prices rose throughout last year, peaking at an average of $44.22 and $51.67 per month in December, respectively.

Lowering prices for users who are able to get broadband access and providing network build-out incentives for carriers to provide service to unreached rural areas should be two national priorities. Monthly charges in the range of $25 to $30 would practically eliminate the need for dial-up access and stimulate economic growth across the country.

Two other broadband bills, the Tauzin-Dingell Internet Freedom and Broadband Deployment Act of 2001 and the Breaux-Nickles Broadband Regulatory Parity Act of 2002, are fatally flawed because they remove wire-sharing requirements on local carriers. Rather, we need stronger common access requirements, which will lead to more competition, more access and lower prices.

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater said the interstate highway system "changed the way we live and the way we work. It is an engine that fuels our economy, creates jobs and serves as a gateway to opportunity. It is truly the tie that binds, a system that connects all of us to this wonderful land."

Can we do any less with the Internet?