Last updated: April 3, 2009 - 9:03am
Although the National Telecommunications Information Administration and the Department of Agriculture have $7.2 billion in stimulus funds available to promote broadband access and use, the two agencies must first define what is meant by the term "broadband." The Federal Communications Commission, which must be consulted on the definition, provides two descriptions of broadband: 1) One description generally mirrors the broad capability standard Congress offered in 1996: "advanced communications systems capable of providing high-speed transmission of services such as data, voice, and video over the Internet and other networks." Two important concepts are missing here that Congress included in its original legislation: A) Users should be able to receive and send high speed transmissions and B) The transmissions should be high quality. Both of these distinctions are obviously very important for anyone using broadband. 2) The second description dates from the widely criticized compromise the Federal Communications Commission struck with the telecommunications industry in 1999, which defined broadband as "data transmission speeds exceeding 200 kilobits per second (kbps) . . . in at least one direction." If we stuck with that definition, it is not clear a citizen could effectively engage with the public panels on the broadband stimulus.
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