Date: Nov. 29, 2001 Contacts: Jennifer Wenger, Media Relations Associate Andrea Durham, Media Relations Assistant (202) 334-2138; e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Prudent Strategy Needed to Jump-Start Broadband
WASHINGTON — To boost public access to broadband technology, the federal government should support new initiatives and monitor developments rather than pursue policies that are premature and could inhibit the market, says a new report of the National Academies' National Research Council. However, once the market takes shape, the federal government may need to step in to help improve service where broadband availability is lacking or to address any abuses of market power that might occur.
"Widespread broadband availability could realize more of the Internet's potential and heighten the usefulness of information technology in people's homes," said Nikil Jayant, chair of the committee that wrote the report and professor of electrical and computer engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta. "Now is the time for government to be patient and let the private sector continue investing in greater deployment of broadband so that more people can — and do — make use of its capabilities. As the shape of broadband deployment and use becomes clearer, we'll have a firmer basis for understanding where the private sector falls short. Policy-makers will then have a clearer idea of what forms of government intervention, if any, may be necessary."
A central finding of the report is the need for the nation to adopt an approach that emphasizes and encourages local opportunities and efforts to bring broadband services to more homes. For example, the federal government could offer planning grants to local governments and support for pilot programs as well as traditional incentives, such as tax credits for companies that invest in underserved or high-cost regions. Local governments could encourage businesses to enter the market by partnering with them to install fiber-optic cables in a locale; they could also make wholesale public investments in the conduits that house fiber-optic facilities, much like a city builds and maintains streets to bolster local commerce. Local public agencies could work with communities and area institutions to stimulate demand for and use of broadband.
A communications tool with the capacity to simultaneously transmit voice, data, and video at high speed, broadband holds the promise of providing consumers with advanced capabilities such as electronic health care applications, real-time participation in meetings via computers, and more interconnected devices within the home. Broadband is commonly defined as a bandwidth that can carry signals at transmission speeds significantly greater than those possible with dial-up modems. Higher speeds to and from the home, plus other advantages such as always being "on" without the need to dial up, are key to broadband's appeal. Today, only about 8 percent of U.S. households subscribe to broadband service. The mix of industries that will supply broadband and the ways that people will use it are not yet fully understood.
Providing broadband service to homes and businesses depends on the transmission methods and hardware of a provider's network. Some service providers build and upgrade their own facilities. Others purchase access to certain elements of a competitor's established facility, such as the copper lines running to a home, to serve subscribers. Allowing access to existing telecommunications networks to provide an alternative service is referred to as "unbundling," which is mandated in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Today, most of the available services involve either digital subscriber line (DSL) technology using copper telephone lines, or cable-modem service using hybrid-fiber coaxial cable systems. Other options on the horizon include optical fiber and wireless technology, which may be the best alternative in rural areas. However, broadband does not involve a "horserace" among technologies. All four technologies are likely to contribute to its deployment.
The report favors competition among facilities-based service providers for the long term for several reasons. It requires less government regulation than mandated unbundling, promotes diversity in the kinds of services offered, avoids technical and other problems associated with the unbundling of copper lines, and reduces the disincentive for established providers to innovate and expand their services. The committee recognizes that in some regions, facilities-based competition is unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future. In those cases, unbundling requirements could be relaxed in exchange for significant new investments to increase broadband service, or it could be managed in a different way.
The study was sponsored by a combination of public and private organizations, with the majority of funds provided by the National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Association of Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Data Communication. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. It is a private, nonprofit institution that provides science and technology advice under a congressional charter.
Read the full text of Broadband: Bringing Home the Bits for free on the web, as well as more than 1,800 other publications from the National Academies. Printed copies are available from the National Academy Press web site or by calling (202) 334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. Reporters may obtain a pre-publication copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences Computer Science and Telecommunications Board
Committee on Broadband Last Mile Technology
Nikil Jayant* (chair) John Pippin Chair in Wireless Systems School of Electrical and Computer Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology, and Director, Georgia Tech Broadband Institute Atlanta
James Chiddix President Interactive Personal Video Group AOL Time Warner Stamford, Conn.
John M. Cioffi* Professor Department of Electrical Engineering Stanford University Palo Alto, Calif.
David D. Clark* Senior Research Scientist Laboratory for Computer Science Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge
Paul E. Green Jr.* Director of Optical Networking Technology Tellabs Inc. (retired) Hawthorne, N.Y.
Kevin C. Kahn Intel Fellow, and Director, Wireless Technology Lab Intel Corp. Hillsboro, Ore.
Richard Lowenberg Executive Director Davis Community Network Davis, Calif.
Clifford Lynch Executive Director Coalition for Networked Information Washington, D.C.
A. Richard Metzger Jr. Partner Lawler, Metzger & Milkman LLC Washington, D.C.
Elizabeth Mynatt Assistant Professor College of Computing Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta
Eli M. Noam Professor of Finance and Economics Columbia Business School, and Director Columbia Institute for Tele-Information Columbia University New York City
Dipankar Raychaudhuri Director Wireless Information Network Laboratory (WINLAB) Rutgers University Piscataway, N.J.
Bob Rowe Commissioner Montana Public Service Commission Helena
Steven Wildman Director James H. and Mary B. Quello Center for Telecommunication Management and Law, and James H. Quello Chair of Telecommunications Studies Michigan State University East Lansing
Marjory S. Blumenthal Study Director
Jon Eisenberg Study Director _________________________________________ * Member, National Academy of Engineering