Broadband in America: A Policy of Neglect is Not Benign

Broadband in America: A Policy of Neglect is Not Benign

Mark N. Cooper (Stanford Law School, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-699-0.ch020
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Abstract

Under the Bush Administration, the U.S. failed to close the digital divide and fell behind on broadband. In 2001, 54 percent of households did not have the Internet. In late 2007, 49 percent of households did nothave broadband. About 25 percent of households with incomes below $25,000 per year had broadband in 2007; whereas over 80 percent of households with incomes above $75,000 did. In 2001, the U.S. ranked third in the world in the penetration of broadband, but had fallen to 15th by 2007. A variety of measures of performance and econometric models that control for economic and social factors show a dozen nations are ahead of the U.S. The laissez faire policy pursued by the Bush administration let a duopoly of cable and telephone companies dribble out broadband at slow speed and high prices. In contrast, the nations that passed the U.S. implemented much more aggressive policies to promote broadband and instead of relying on weak intermodal competition, they required the dominant networks to be open to competition in Internet services. This kept the price down and stimulated adoption and innovation.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Divide: refers to the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all. It includes the imbalances in physical access to technology as well as the imbalances in resources and skills needed to effectively participate as a digital citizen.

Broadband: in telecommunications refers to a signaling method that includes or handles a relatively wide range of frequencies, which may be divided into channels or frequency bins. Broadband is always a relative term, understood according to its context. The wider the bandwidth, the greater the information-carrying capacity. In data communications an analogue modem will transmit a bandwidth of 56 kilobits per seconds (kbit/s) over a telephone line; over the same telephone line a bandwidth of several megabits per second can be handled by ADSL, which is described as broadband (relative to a modem over a telephone line, although much less than can be achieved over a fibre optic circuit). The threshold for defining boradband has been controversial in the Uinted States.

Trickle-down economics: and “trickle-down theory” are terms of political rhetoric that refer to the policy of providing tax cuts or other benefits to businesses and rich individuals, in the belief that this will indirectly benefit the broad population. Proponents argue economic growth flows down from the top to the bottom, indirectly benefiting those who do not directly benefit from the policy changes. However, others have argued that “trickle-down” policies generally do not work, and that the trickle-down effect might be very slim. Today “trickle-down economics” is most closely identified with the economic policies known as Reaganomics or supply-side economics.

Michael Kevin Powell: (born March 23, 1963) is an American Republican politician. He was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission by President Bill Clinton on 3 November 1997. President George W. Bush designated him chairman of the commission on January 22, 2001. Powell is the son of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Alma Powell.

Penetration: is given as a percentage of a country’s households who have have subscribed to a particular service.

Laissez-faire: is a term used to describe a policy of allowing events to take their own course. The term is a French phrase literally meaning “let do”. It is a doctrine that states that government generally should not intervene in the marketplace.The term is often used to refer to various economic philosophies and political philosophies which seek to minimize or eliminate government intervention in most or all aspects of society.

Communications Act of 1934: was a United States federal law enacted as Public Law Number 416, Act of June 19, 1934, ch. 652, 48 Stat. 1064, by the 73rd Congress, codified as Chapter 5 of Title 47 of the United States Code, 47 U.S.C. § 151 et seq. The Act replaced the Federal Radio Commission with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It also transferred regulation of interstate telephone services from the Interstate Commerce Commission to the FCC.

Telecommunications Act of 1996: was the first major overhaul of United States telecommunications law in nearly 62 years, amending the Communications Act of 1934. It was approved by the 104th Congress on January 3, 1996 and signed into law on February 8, 1996 by President Bill Clinton.

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