It's time for an upgrade to the nation's information superhighway. That was the welcome message Tuesday from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who laid out for Congress a broad, multiyear plan to greatly improve the country's broadband networks and expand access for the rural and poor areas of the country. America must act or risk losing its competitive edge in new and emerging technologies.
Broadband networks are becoming the central platform for communications, information-sharing and business, elbowing land-line services and broadcast television out of the way. Yet millions of Americans don't have access to broadband.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski's solution involves challenging the entrenched interests of the broadcast networks and communications giants. The FCC wants to auction off some spectrum now provided to broadcast television for additional wireless capacity. And it's proposing siphoning off money from a federal fund that subsidizes phones in rural America to expand broadband capacity there.
It should be done. As many as 14 other countries are already outpacing America in broadband adoption. And federal policy must not be bound by nostalgia for old technology but by a vision of what is possible. Doing nothing to compete poses a long-term threat to innovation and job creation that flows from having a high-speed Internet infrastructure in place.
Genachowski's plan also includes a "100 Squared" initiative to substantially increase the capabilities of the country's networks. His goal is to make it affordable for 100 million households to have very high speed broadband of 100 megabits per second. Today's average Internet subscriber enjoys speeds of about four megabits per second.
Very high speed broadband is a revolution that is coming whether America joins it or not. The FCC has now placed itself smack in the middle of ensuring the country's superhighway flows freely into the future. That's a refreshing posture for a government agency that was better known under President George W. Bush for policing indecency on the airwaves. Drive on.