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Knight Commission calls universal US access to broadband

Warwick Ashford

The US needs to give broadband access for all Americans the same priority as the Eisenhower administration did to building an interstate highway system.

The report by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy said a free flow of information is as vital as clean air, and that leaders should give it a higher priority.

Considering how much business is done on the internet, the commission said it is vital to get as many people connected as possible, according to US reports.

More than a third of US citizens do not subscribe to broadband services and many rural communities still do not have broadband facilities.

The government should provide incentives for service providers to extend coverage to these areas quickly, said Alberto Ibarguen, chief executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The commission also called on the government to provide funding for internet access and media literacy programmes at public libraries.

US President Barack Obama said during his election campaign in November that he would set universal broadband access as one of his goals.

The UK government has also committed itself to rolling out universal access to a 2Mbps service to reach the third of the population still not connected, as recommended in the Digital Britain report.

But the process is being delayed by uncertainties over the tax treatment of investments in networks and the availability of government funding for broadband in remote areas.

The delays may have caused the UK to slip in world rankings by one place to 25th, behind Taiwan and Ukraine but ahead of Germany, Spain and Italy.


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