Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Down to Business: Universal Broadband Access for All?

Where's the Demand?

Before anyone decides to shell out tens of billions of our dollars (trillions of pennies) to make up the shortfall, it's worth asking: Does everyone really want or need broadband communications? Despite all the rhetoric about the "digital divide" and the haves and have-nots and how the United States is "falling behind" the fat-wired economies of Japan, Germany and South Korea, no one knows how many homes will want fast Internet access, and how soon.

Supporters argue that broadband Internet access and the remote education, employment and health-care services it renders make it an essential public service, letting rural and poor communities reap the same benefits of the information economy as the digitally endowed.

So let's assume universal broadband is a national imperative. What's the best way to get there?

One knee-jerk strategy is to define broadband as a universal service like basic telephony, charging subscribers a small fee (what's a few extra pennies?) to subsidize a nationwide DSL (or cable or wireless) rollout that includes remote locations. Such a plan would likely also include "finding" public money to lower the price of broadband services in those underserved areas.

  • 1