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Inching toward a national broadband policy?

Lying beneath the escalating noise about what steps the government needs to take to ensure that all Americans have access to a decent, affordable broadband is a debate about just how bad the problem is.

Congress took a step in that direction with the House passage yesterday of the Broadband Data Improvement Act, a bill which directs numerous federal and state agencies, including the Federal Communications Commission, to improve the data they collect about broadband penetration.

The Senate had passed the bill on Friday, so it now heads to the White House where it will await the president's signature.

"If the United States is to remain a world leader in technology, we need a national broadband network that is second-to-none," Sen. Daniel Inouye, the Hawaii Democrat who sponsored the bill, said in a statement. "The federal government has a responsibility to ensure the continued rollout of broadband access, as well as the successful deployment of the next generation of broadband technology. But as I have said before, we cannot manage what we do not measure. This bill will give us the baseline statistics we need in order to eventually achieve the successful deployment of broadband access and services to all Americans."

By directing groups like the FCC and the Census Bureau to get more precise data from Americans about broadband services, Congress could be taking an important step toward settling the debate over the digital divide. If the resulting efforts prove studies like this one from the Pew Internet Project right, it could go a long way toward building a consensus among policy makers that could nudge along some of the various initiatives kicking around aiming to promote universal Internet ([white spaces](/infra/article.php/3773891/Will+White+Spaces+Save+the+World.htm), [AWS-3 auction](/government/article.php/3754676/FCC+Seeks+Comment+on+Free+Internet+Plan.htm)).

It also comes as welcome news to groups that have been agitating for a unified push for nationwide broadband, such as Free Press, the organizer of the [Internet for Everyone](http://internetforeveryone.org/) coalition.

"With this legislation, the Senate has taken a crucial step toward a national broadband policy," Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott said in a statement. "The data collected would lay the foundation for policies in the next Congress to promote universal, affordable high-speed Internet access for all Americans."

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