President Obama, like many Americans and national leaders across the country, recognizes the importance of broadband as the most critical infrastructure of the 21st century. “Access to high-speed broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity for American families, businesses, and consumers,” he said earlier this year upon signing a Presidential Memorandum on “Expanding Broadband Deployment and Adoption by Addressing Regulatory Barriers and Encouraging Investment and Training.”
According to the 44th Commander in Chief, “Affordable, reliable access to high-speed broadband is critical to U.S. economic growth and competitiveness. High-speed broadband enables Americans to use the Internet in new ways, expands access to health services and education, increases the productivity of businesses, and drives innovation throughout the digital ecosystem.”
The President’s Memorandum created the Broadband Opportunity Council, which recently released a report recommending ways that the federal government can increase broadband opportunities for people across the country. Namely, the report highlights four primary themes:
- Modernize Federal programs to expand program support for broadband investments.
- Empower communities with tools and resources to attract broadband investment and promote meaningful use.
- Promote increased broadband deployment and competition through expanded access to Federal assets.
- Improve data collection, analysis and research on broadband.
To accomplish these goals, the Council will render oversight for several federal agencies to ensure compliance with their proposed recommendations, and will continue to outline additional steps to be taken to increase broadband access, adoption, and informed use. For example, the Council recommends that programs with roughly a $10 billion budget include broadband as an eligible program expenditure. They also suggest that an inventory of federal assets – like wireless towers – be created so that broadband can more efficiently and expeditiously be deployed in remote parts of the country. Likewise, they suggest the creation of a catalogue of broadband funding opportunities and a streamlined application processes for programs and broadband permitting projects.
The current set of recommendations are to be pursued over the next eighteen months. During that time, the Broadband Opportunity County, and the agencies whose actions it will support, will do their best to adhere to the policy mandate established by President Obama earlier this year.
“It shall be the policy of the Federal government for executive departments and Agencies having statutory authorities applicable to broadband deployment (Agencies) to use all available and appropriate authorities to:
- Identify and address regulatory barriers that may unduly impede either wired broadband deployment or the infrastructure to augment wireless broadband deployment;
- Encourage further public and private investment in broadband networks and services;
- Promote the adoption and meaningful use of broadband technology; and otherwise
- Encourage or support broadband deployment, competition, and adoption in ways that promote the public interest.”