The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, announced a landmark policy change this week favoring U.S. broadband initiatives as the centerpiece of American communication. The FCC proposal calls for reclaiming some broadcast spectrum already allocated to the nation's television airwaves and redistributing the frequencies for wireless Internet access.
Speaking to the PBS NEWSHOUR this week, the FCC Chairman signaled a policy change would boost underserved communities.
Julius Genachowski, Chairman Federal Communications Commission: "Some communities aren't using broadband or don't have access to broadband in numbers that are significantly higher than others, rural Americans, kids, low-income Americans, seniors. But the critical thing is that the costs of digital exclusion, the costs of not being on our broadband grid, are high and getting higher."
Cable and phone companies often avoid laying broadband infrastructure in rural communities because they deem the build-out costs "too expensive." Federal officials contend wireless internet access subsidized by taxpayers would fill the void.
FCC regulators argue the new broadband policy echoes the push for rural electricity and phone communication initiatives of the mid-and-late 20th century.
But widening access won't come cheap. The Obama Administration, under the 2009 stimulus bill, is currently doling out $7.2 Billion in grant and loan guarantees to broadband offerings in Rural America. FCC officials believe another $20 billion would be collected from public auctions of over-the-air television spectrum.
But television broadcasters are wary the move could slice into their ability to multi-cast over-the-air channels and broadcast High-Definition content. Despite an uncertain future, the FCC has set lofty high-speed goals for the next decade.
Julius Genachowski, Chairman Federal Communications Commission: "Right now, on average, people are getting about four, five, six megabits per second. We have set a goal of 100 megabits to 100 million households by 2020."
The Obama Administration plans to push Congress to clear legal hurdles for increased broadband funding and focus in the months ahead.