Bridge the digital divide: bring on the broadband

August 25, 2009 - 0 Comments

Access to the Internet at high speeds – for telecommuting, accessing data or using video conferencing technology – is something that most of us take for granted, but millions of Americans still don’t have. 

According to a study conducted by Communications Workers of America (CWA), the United States still lags far behind other countries in terms of broadband speeds. Their Speed Matters study shows that speeds in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic are faster (as high as 9.9 megabits per second [mgps] in Delaware), but speeds in the South and in rural areas were markedly slower (as low as 2.6 mgps in Ohio).

The Obama Administration is working to address that disparity, which leaves Americans in unserved and underserved communities at a distinct disadvantage. The first step is the $7.2 billion offered by the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), along with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) efforts to expand broadband access across the United States through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and Broadband Initiatives Program. They hope the efforts will increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits.

Another important step will be the National Broadband Plan, which is being created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It is set to be unveiled in February, and the FCC is looking for input from Americans now. They want to hear how we define broadband and what we expect to see in a plan. They have already asked for comment from Americans and will be holding an open meeting this week to ask for more input.

This is the time for all of us who use and appreciate high broadband speeds to take the time to share our ideas of how to bridge the digital divide in America. What services and access do you have in your personal and professional life that others could benefit from? How fast is fast enough when it comes to broadband access speeds?

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