There is a provision in the stimulus bill that required the FCC to develop a national broadband plan to “ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability.” The FCC looked into the issue and came up with some 200-plus recommendations. It’s now Congress’s turn to look into whether or not to go ahead with these recommendations.
I am assuming that the idea behind the stimulus provision was that having Internet access is great and everyone should have it, but most people don’t. This, as it turns out, is not the case. Over at the Technology Liberation Front, Jerry Brito has this good summary of the issue and some good data about how our country is doing Internet-wise. His conclusion:
We have more subscribers than any other developed nation by more than double, and almost all households have access to broadband. I know it’s not fashionable to say, but it looks like we’re doing pretty damn well.
As Brito explains, this probably explains this Pew Internet and American Life survey, released last month, which shows that Internet users and non-users overall think that broadband extension shouldn’t be the government’s priority. If fact, as you can see below, 45 percent of non-users said that the government expansion of broadband access should not be done.
I fear that their opinion may not be important at this point. The stimulus included some $7 billion for that purpose:
More than $7 billion in Recovery Act funds is aimed at helping achieve a longstanding goal of the federal government: making high-speed Internet service, known as broadband, available to millions of Americans who either cannot afford it or do not have access to it. To date, more than $2.3 billion has been awarded to states to underwrite nearly 200 broadband projects across the country, with the balance of Recovery funds expected to be awarded by the end of September 2010, FCC officials say.