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FCC Aims to Boost Rural Broadband

posted on March 18, 2010

Hello, I'm Dean Borg -- Mark Pearson is away. It was a week of cautious optimism on the road to economic recovery. The wholesale manufacturing sector lost some traction while Wall Street hit record levels.

Inflation appears to be in-check as the Consumer Price Index remained unchanged in February. Over the past 12 months, the Index has only risen 2.1 percent -- what analysts are calling "tame."

In the wholesale manufacturing sector, the PRODUCER Price Index fell by six-tenths-of-one percent in February -- potentially good news for consumers.

Unemployment remained steady at 9.7 percent -- down from its October 2009 peak of 10.1 percent. The number is expected to hover around 9 percent for most of the coming year.

The Conference Board's Index of Leading Economic Indicators was up again this month. According to the Board's spokesman, this caps nearly a year of increases and points to a continued rise in economic activity.

And the Federal Reserve Board agreed to leave interest rates alone to help foster further economic recovery.

All the information gave Wall Street traders enough of a push to reach an 18-month peak late in the week. However, the market took a downward trend Friday and settled just above 10,700.

As the recovery continues, it is impossible to avoid noticing a large sector of commerce has moved from Main Street to cyberspace. While high-technology touches almost everyone everyday, access for some is limited. According to a recent study by the Federal Communications Commission, 4 percent of Americans remain without access to high-speed Internet -- the largest portion in rural areas.

Cables carrying the Internet run through farm-country but ... because of high costs service...providers are reluctant to go the extra-mile down a country lane. This week, the Obama Administration released its plan to bring broadband to Rural America and bridge the gap.


FCC Aims to Boost Rural Broadband

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." (CREDIT: PBS NEWSHOUR)

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.


Tags: news politics rural technology television