Bush talks broadband

Tells high-tech execs FCC is focusing on the issue

President George W. Bush finally said the word broadband
in public, and, for now, that's enough for the high-tech community.

After a day of discussions between cabinet officials and 100 high-tech CEOs—including AOL Time Warner's Steve Case and AT&T Broadband's Michael Armstrong—Bush said the administration recognizes that one of the "keys to recovery on the economic side is a strong and vibrant high-tech industry. This country must be aggressive about the expansion of broadband."

The high-tech community has pushed for a statement on broadband since January. Details remain sketchy, but the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology plans to release a more specific report this fall. Last week, the administration released an outline of its tech agenda, "Promoting Innovation and Competitiveness," which, besides encouraging broadband deployment, promotes research and development.

The high-tech community wants the administration to endorse a policy to deploy 100-Mb/s networks for all Americans in a decade. Bush's possible 2004 opponent, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), has pushed for such a policy, introducing a bill to force the administration's hand on broadband.

"President Bush's involvement in [broadband]," said Bob Borchardt, chairman of the Electronic Industries' board of directors, "will bring new energy and visibility to a key priority of our industry."

"A lot of the action is going to come through the FCC," Bush said. "I'm confident that the chairman and the commission are focusing on policies that will bring high-speed Internet service, will create competition and will keep the consumers in mind."

Said NCTA spokesman Rob Stoddard, "The technology is on track to support the President's broadband vision."

Consumer groups said they were left out of the discussions. "This is looking more and more like an administration of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations," said Dr. Mark Cooper, of the Consumer Federation of America.