Dems Push High-Speed For Anchor Institutions

Want national broadband plan to include service to libraries, schools, health facilities

House Democrats have made it clear to the FCC, and now the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, that they want the national broadband plan to include getting high-speed broadband service to libraries and other anchor institutions.

In an FCC oversight hearing last week, House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA), told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that the plan should focus on "extraordinarily high bandwidth" to libraries.

Libraries typically have free computers with free Internet, and can become Internet hubs for hundreds, while the high-speed fiber can also be a last-mile solution for nearby homes and businesses.

Adding their exclamation point were Democratic subcommittee members Doris Matsui and Ann Eshoo both California, and former subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

In a letter to NTIA, which is handing out billions in government grant money for broadband deployment, adoption and education, the trio urged the administration to put a priority on "anchor institutions, including libraries, schools and health facilities."

They said that a number of those institutions did not apply for that money because they did not fit the categories established by BTOP, and those that did apply found the process "confusing, complicated and discouraging."

The legislators suggested that the anchor institutions needed 100 megabits to 1 gigabit connections to provide distance learning and healthcare services, for example.

NTIA set 768 kilobits as a floor for defining high-speed, the same adopted recently by the FCC when defining the minimum for high-speed service.

NTIA has said it would learn from the first round and apply the lessons to the second, and perhaps final, round next year.

Matsui and company "strongly urged" prioritizing really high-speed connections for those institutions as one of those changes.