FCC Chairman Pushes Broadband As Digital Uniter

Genachowski says closing digital divide is a civil rights issue
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"Closing the digital divide is one of the
most important civil rights issues of our time," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
told a Rainbow/PUSH annual Telecom Symposium in Washington Friday.

The chairman said mobile broadband was a key
element, particularly in promoting minority adoption, which he pointed
out lagged overall adoption. "Mobile devices are now the primary pathway
to the Internet for minority Americans according to a couple of
Pew surveys," he said.

The chairman pitched the FCC's National Broadband
Plan in general and its spectrum reclamation plan in particular
as key to meeting the "explosion" in broadband and avoiding hitting
"a wall" that could cost the country its lead in
"mobile innovation," a cost he said would be measured in economic
growth and jobs.

He said that without freeing up broadband,
including by getting broadcasters to give up and share spectrum, "the
choice consumers will face is between lousy service and sky-high prices for
broadband."

The chairman said key barriers to adoption in
minority communities were relevance and cost. He said that one problem
is that many people don't realize why broadband is important to them. He
pointed out that when telemedicine helps save or educate a child,
its relevance to the parents jumps to 100%. "There isn't a single silver
bullet on the broadband adoption challenge and we need to pursue many different
initiatives..."

The chairman said that broadband can help
entrepreneurs including small and disadvantaged businesses, but only if the
Internet remains open.

Also weighing in at the conference was Rudy
Brioche, senior director of external affairs and public policy counsel for
Comcast. He said that the goal of helping achieve broadband adoption and deployment
is more than just a slogan to his company, but is imbedded in its policies.

On the deployment side, he argued that servicing
areas that already have broadband from another provider does not make economic
sense.

On digital literacy, Brioche said the cable
industry has "really stepped up in this area." Comcast has been very
involved in One Economy through the Digital Connectors program, he pointed out,
which helps kids learn more about the use of broadband. He agreed relevance is
a key reason for non-adopters, and suggested that educating kids can help
educate their parents.

He also agreed with the chairman that cost is an issue, but pointed out
that cable has provided subsidized service to schools, libraries and subsidized
housing, and said that could be expanded with the government's help.

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