Congress Focuses on Broadband

Dennis Faas's picture

Congress has been occupied with several matters concerning the Internet recently. The legislative body recently gave the 'go ahead' to measures that should make broadband service more accessible in the future.

On Tuesday of last week, the House of Representatives approved H.R. 3919 which requires the government to survey the current availability of broadband access by counting the number of household and corporate subscribers. Based on that data the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will then develop a map displaying accessibility distribution throughout the country. (Source: UNI Telecom)

A second bill, S. 1853 or the Community Broadband Act, is also making its way through the halls of Washington. If the legislation is passed, it would help local governments create their own networks by officially classifying these projects as public utilities. (Source:

ISP (Internet Service Providers) such as Verizon and Comcast opposed the moves, and the outcome of the controversy has been that several states passed legislation forbidding local governments to supply broadband capability. This resulted in retaliation and the current S.1853 legislation, which seeks to override state laws. Senator John McCain was one of the early architects of the Act and it currently enjoys support from a broad base of community organizations, civic leaders and corporations such as Intel and the aforementioned Google.

Perhaps what is more amazing than the proposal of S. 1853 is the concept that the Internet has become such a part of our lives that Congress wants to deem it as essential a service as telephones, electricity, and water. When the tech bubble burst in the 1990s, critics doubted if the web would ever be a successful medium for business. Now, politicians are moving to protect America's rights to distribute access at a local level.

The Internet is quickly becoming the world's main source of communication, and more and more business transactions are completed online each year. No doubt the big telecommunication firms are desperate to control the booming broadband industry, regardless of public will.

However, Internet-as-public-utility may not be the greatest idea, either. On a personal level, the day before I wrote this article my cell phone bill arrived in the mail; it made me wonder: if governments get their hands on a new service, how many new taxes would they tack on? Can you say miscellaneous surcharge fiesta?

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