Boucher Wants to Improve America’s Broadband
Boucher Wants to Improve America’s Broadband
Boucher Wants to Improve America’s Broadband

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    Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) gave the opening keynote at the Broadband Policy Summit today in Arlington.

    He noted that America is the home of the Internet and remains its technological and economic leader, and that in terms of raw numbers, America is the world leader in broadband. But he is concerned with America's 15th-place ranking in the recent OECD study. He detailed a number of plans he thinks would help improve broadband penetration in America.

    • He urged summit attendees to contact their Congressional representatives to ask them to support the Universal Service Reform Act of 2007. Currently, recipients of Universal Service funds are using those funds in ways that improve their data infrastructure– but they have to frame those infrastructure improvements as being aimed at improving voice communication. Those improvements do in fact improve voice communication, but it would be simpler if the recipients could more directly invest in data infrastructure. The act would also add broadband deployment requirements as a condition of receiving funds. Rep. Boucher believes that approval of the Act could be a “silver bullet,” and that rural underdeployment is largely to blame for America's current ranking on the OECD list.

    • He would eliminate legal barriers to municipal deployment of broadband, including municipal WiFi and mesh networks. He plans to introduce legislation to remove these barriers, and cited the example from his home district of Bland, VA.

    • He sees the pending agriculture bill as providing an opportunity to reexamine funding for rural broadband deployment.

    • He cited the example of “Connect Kentucky,” which he believes has been a successful program for increasing broadband deployment. He thinks that it is an example worthy of emulation and for which a federal complement might be developed. He notes that Kentucky has achieved 93% broadband penetration, and that the success of the program relied on the collection of good, accurate deployment data.

    • He discussed the connection of telecommunications to possible “smart grid” power systems, and discussed the potential of BPL for providing broadband competition.

    • He believes that the net neutrality debate should be finally resolved. He believes that battles over net neutrality have been blocking legislative progress in related matters, and that a compromise is possible. Finally, he said that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has an interesting solution to the net neutrality debate– but that you'd have to ask him personally what it is.

    Gigi Sohn will be participating in tomorrow's Net Neutrality panel at the summit– we'll keep you informed of any interesting developments.