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Lieberman Joins Broadband Clamor

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (D) is the latest legislator to join the congressional clamor for broadband deployment, introducing Wednesday the National Broadband Strategy Act of 2002. The former vice presidential candidate says his legislation differs from the many other broadband bills currently being debated as his calls upon the Bush Administration to develop a coherent, cross-agency strategy to facilitate broadband deployment.

The bill follows a lengthy report on broadband deployment that Lieberman issued last week during a visit to Wind River, a technology company in Northern California. The bill requires that a national broadband strategy address the issues identified in Lieberman's report, and be developed within six months of the bill's passage. Lieberman also intends to build on the national strategy bill with a string of legislative proposals over the coming months to usher in advanced broadband that will make speeds of 10 to 100 megabits per second available all across the country.

"For high-tech industries and the American economy at large, bringing on the broadband boom can spark the next sustained surge of economic growth," Lieberman said. "Unfortunately, the case for making broadband deployment a pivotal piece of our economic puzzle has yet to be understood adequately by government."

Lieberman's legislation attempts to fill a void in the debate over broadband policy. While there have been numerous bills offered in Congress dealing with isolated components of broadband policy, Lieberman's legislation is the first to require a national strategy addressing a full range of issues surrounding broadband expansion.

"Many in Washington have been focusing, almost myopically, on short-term obstacles to the next small jump in speed," Lieberman said. "I think we need real vision here."

While the Bush Administration has made general statements in support of broadband deployment, Lieberman said it has not yet advanced any coherent strategy to facilitate it. Lieberman warned that "decisions are piling up: on spectrum, competition, rights management, spam, privacy, child protection and more."

According to Lieberman, a first step in addressing those issues is to give policymakers a better understanding of the existing barriers to the development, demand, and deployment of broadband technology.

"Unfortunately, the case for making broadband deployment a priority of a national economic strategy has yet to be understood adequately by government. The broadband buck is still stuck on the government's desk -- and with it, thousands of new opportunities and millions of new jobs," Lieberman said.

Over the next few months, Lieberman plans to push for legislation that centers on four key elements the senator says is integral to a national strategy of national broadband deployment:

  • FCC REGULATORY FRAMEWORK: Lieberman wants to direct the Federal Communications Commission to explore all of the broadband deployment and delivery technology options to reach advanced broadband speeds. Once the options have been identified, the FCC would be directed to create a regulatory framework for the delivery of those services;
  • TAX CREDITS: Establish tax credits and incentives for a range of advanced broadband deployment and broadband utilization efforts possibly including credits for infrastructure deployment, equipment implementation, employee utilization, installation in atypical settings and "innovative applications";
  • ADVANCED INFRASTRUCTURE R&D: The legislation would "insure" that fundamental R&D issues are tackled in a coordinated manner to overcome the "scientific and technological barriers to advanced widespread broadband deployment"; and
  • APPLICATION R&D AND DEPLOPYMENT: Lieberman would require federal agencies to undertake R&D and promote the development and availability of major applications in areas where government plays a major role, including education, medicine, science and homeland security.
  • "I rise today to introduce what I believe will be a roadmap to revitalization. It's premised on the extraordinary promise of high-speed Internet to help us return to high-intensity growth; by revolutionizing the way we communicate and live our lives," Lieberman said in introducing the initial legislation. "Its goal is to highlight the challenges we face in tapping the transformative potential of broadband technology, to spur agreement on a national strategy for accelerating its development and deployment, and ultimately to help bring on what we all hope will be the broadband boom."