Bush Talks Broadband

President Bush made one of his rare public comments on broadband Thursday,
promising that the United States will “do better” in increasing broadband
penetration rates.

But he didn’t say how.

Taking audience questions after an economic address in the Washington area suburb of Sterling, Va., Bush was asked about legislative efforts to limit municipal efforts to establish Wi-Fi networks and America’s falling rank in worldwide broadband penetration rates.

“It’s interesting . . . because I laid out the opposite vision, which was that
broadband ought to be available and accessible all throughout the country by
a set period of time,” Bush replied, adding that it appears “Congress is
trying to unwind that vision.”

In March 2004, the president set a goal of broadband access for all
Americans within three years.

“We ought to have universal, affordable access for broadband technology by
the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible
thereafter, consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to purchasing
the broadband carrier,” Bush said at the time.

When Bush set the 2007 goal, America ranked 13th in broadband penetration
rates. According to the latest numbers from the International
Telecommunications Union (ITU), the U.S. has fallen to 16th.

The ITU analysts attribute America’s falling numbers to a lack of cohesive
government policy while others attribute it the vast and diverse U.S.

“You mentioned that other nations are ahead of us. True, we’re catching
up — and we’ll do better, by the way,” Bush said Thursday. “Part of the
role of government is to create an environment in which people are willing
to risk capital. Broadband expansion is part of creating an environment in
which it will make it easier for people to be competitive in this part of
the world.”

The president called broadband expansion a “brilliant” idea.

“People are able to do so much more from their home, particularly if you’ve
got the technology capable of carrying information,” he said. “One of the
interesting questions we’re going to have is the last-mile issue, and a lot
of that, hopefully, will be changed.”

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