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White House says broadband is a 'Core Utility' just like power and water

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Think you could survive in this day and age without access to a broadband connection? The White House has its doubts. A recent report from the Broadband Opportunity Council (under the auspices of the Oval Office) described broadband connectivity as an "essential infrastructure for communities" that "has steadily shifted from an optional amenity to a core utility" on par with water, electricity and sewers. According to the report, which was headed by the chairs of the US departments of Agriculture and Commerce, 51 million Americans lack access to download speeds beyond 25 Mbps. That's roughly a sixth of the national population.

Investigators "review[ed] every major Federal program that provides support for broadband" and found that even among agencies that can provide connectivity, some "lack specific guidelines to promote its use" while others lacked sufficient funding for proper implementation. The investigators also produced a list of 36 actions to improve accessibility that could be implemented within the next 18 months. One step include investing $10 billion to modernize federal programs like the USDA's Community Facilities program which works to bring connectivity to health clinics and recreation centers around the country. The investigators also suggested "creating an online inventory of data on Federal assets" like the Interior Department's stock of cell and data towers," and streamlining the broadband permitting process. And to ensure that these are implemented within the prescribed timeframe, federal agencies will have to regularly report to the investigative committee which itself will report to the NEC.

[Image Credit: Associated Press]

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