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ECONOMICS REPORT - Plan Aims to Expand Broadband Across US

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A mother in Aurora, Colorado, uses the Internet with her children
A mother in Aurora, Colorado, uses the Internet with her children

This is the VOA Special English Economics Report.

A newly released proposal calls for almost everyone in the United States to have high-speed Internet service at home within ten years. On Tuesday the Federal Communications Commission sent its National Broadband Plan to Congress.

The F.C.C. wants one hundred million homes to have inexpensive Internet service at ten times current speeds. Another goal for twenty twenty is to have the fastest and most extensive wireless network of any nation.

The United States invented the Internet. Yet a recent study placed it sixteenth in broadband access. F.C.C. Chairman Julius Genachowski says the service available is slow and costly compared with other developed countries.

Currently, about two-thirds of Americans have broadband at home. But almost one hundred million do not. The government says fourteen million of them cannot get broadband even if they wanted it.

The United States built a national highway system to expand transportation. Now President Obama says a similar effort is needed to expand broadband networks.

His administration says expanding access is an economic development issue. Fast connections, it says, are important to business and job creation, and to other areas like education and health care. The government proposes to spend up to sixteen billion dollars on a wireless network for public safety agencies.

Most Americans get broadband service through their cable television provider or telephone company. There are rules for companies that supply utilities like electricity and water to let competitors use their wires or pipes. But some experts point out the lack of such "open access" rules for telephone and cable companies. This is unlike some other countries with better broadband access.

Expanding service to some areas of the country will require wireless transmission. But there is a limited amount of radio frequency spectrum available.

To help pay for the plan, the F.C.C. wants to sell five hundred megahertz of spectrum. But it says the plan will require ten times more unused spectrum than it can now offer. TV stations are worried that they will be forced to give up some of their frequencies.

Some members of Congress have questioned the costs of the F.C.C. plan and how it may affect competition. At the same time, a court case has raised questions about the agency's legal powers to regulate broadband service.

And that's the VOA Special English Economics Report, written by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.

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