Broadband is now considered a “core utility” by the White House and is just as essential as sewer, water, and electricity infrastructure.
A Monday report from the White House said that while innovation in broadband speed has been plentiful in the U.S., income and geography remain major barriers for widespread access.
“Broadband has steadily shifted from an optional amenity to a core utility for households, businesses, and community institutions,” the report said. However, equal access to the Internet is still not as strong as the Administration would hope. A Pew study from July, for example, found that about 15 percent of American adults aren’t using the Internet. Federal programs are not fully responding to this, the report added.
Obama has celebrated his administration’s efforts to get people online, claiming that since he took office over 45 million more people have gotten online, but there’s still much more work to do. This week’s report calls for a greater governmentwide effort to improve broadband availability and accessibility across the country.
The report recommends expanding more federal programs to support broadband investments and improvements on data collection and research into broadband.
To accomplish this, the White House has set out its strategy, which includes modernizing federal programs like the Department of Agriculture’s community facilities program to bring broadband to health clinics and recreation centers; the creation of an online inventory of data on federal assets to increase the pace and quality of broadband deployments to remote areas; streamlining the applications for programs and broadband permitting processes to increase competition; and creating a new Web portal for communities to access information on broadband funding and loan programs.
The report further recommends that the U.S. promote “dig once” programs for the laying of fiber cables and reducing the costs of roadwork. It will also implement outreach programs to Native American tribal lands to improve broadband connectivity in these areas.
The report says it will aim to carry out these changes within the next two years.