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Need for Broadband Transcends Cities, Towns, and Communities

Mark McElroy's post on NextGenWeb today is below and at

Access to broadband, and furthermore use of broadband, is imperative for U.S. citizens to maintain their competitive edge in an increasingly global economy. Broadband allows educational, employment and healthcare opportunities that would otherwise remain out of reach for many. At Connected Nation, our goal is ubiquitous broadband availability and a radical increase in household and business broadband adoption, and we realize that collecting accurate data and mapping out broadband penetration is an important first step. There is good news on this front as the Congress is poised to give final approval to S.1492, the Broadband Data Improvement Act.

At Connected Nation, I have personally seen communities go to great lengths to gain access to broadband. I have pictures of telecom workers using mules to run fiber in hilly rural Kentucky. I have pictures of entire towns turning out to receive their broadband matching grants. I have met Valerie Davis. Valerie has multiple sclerosis, but with broadband she can work from home, and care for her children, and maintain a sense of normalcy that before broadband was unattainable.

These stories and thousands of others show that the need for broadband transcends cities, towns, and communities. It’s not just urban areas who want and need broadband. Urban and rural areas, alike, have much to benefit and gain from broadband deployment and use. We have seen in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio that public-private partnerships can help us reach our collective goal of a connected nation, but I cannot stress enough the need for effective broadband mapping policies and the critical role of public/private partnerships. S. 1492 is a positive step forward in the right direction.

Based on what we have seen that has proven effective, four principles are necessary to create an effective broadband mapping policy. First, it must be relevant to consumers - consumers need to be able to see that they can indeed get broadband at their address. Second, it must be relevant to providers - we need to be able to demonstrate where and why providers should extend and improve their networks. Third, we need to make it relevant to policy makers - we must assure policy makers that there is suitable infrastructure throughout the country and help pinpoint rural and other areas where public resources may be necessary. Fourth, we need to incorporate digital literacy – understanding that access to broadband’s opportunities hinges not only on connectivity, but understanding how to use that foundation to lead a higher quality of life. Mapping policies that serve the needs of consumers, the public sector, the private sector, and communities, can make national broadband deployment a reality.