Group pushes for universal broadband access

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Affordable high-speed Internet access for all Americans by 2010 needs to be
one of the Bush administration's highest priorities, a coalition of computer
makers known as TechNet said Tuesday.

Putting into practice the policy TechNet wants should not be too difficult,
however, since the coalition wants the administration to stick with an agenda of
regulatory freedom.

'The goal of public policy should be to encourage new investment in broadband
networks through competition and the removal of regulatory uncertainty and
disincentives,' according to a white paper the coalition is distributing.

This means TechNet wants the government to declare that the whole country
should be wired for speed, and then stand out of the way while the business
sector gets to work.

'It is critically important for the United States to adopt a national
broadband policy that encourages investment in new broadband infrastructure,
applications and services -- particularly new last-mile broadband facilities,'
Intel Corp. CEO Craig Barrett said.

'Regulatory policies should encourage all companies to deploy these expensive
and risky facilities,' he added.

The tricky part is that TechNet wants broadband access to be defined as 100
megabits per second, which is some 60 times faster than current broadband
access.

TechNet said many applications -- high-definition video, DVD-quality video
and television-quality video -- require such super-high-speed networks.

The Federal Communications Commission currently defines broadband as 2 mbps
or faster.

Besides Intel, Cisco Systems Inc., 3Com Corp., Microsoft Corp., Genuity Inc.,
Harmonic Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Excite@Home Corp. are all members of
TechNet.

The group estimated that 4.4 percent of U.S. households, or 10.7 million
homes, currently access the Internet at broadband speeds.

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