Executive Summary

Persuasive research indicates that connecting our nation to broadband will bring remarkable economic, social, cultural, personal, and other benefits to our citizens. Citing this research, a bipartisan chorus of America's leaders has for years advocated the deployment across our nation of robust and affordable broadband access to the Internet. Taken together, the rhetoric and research tell a compelling story; that in the Digital Age, universal, affordable, and robust broadband is the key to our nation's citizens reaching for - and achieving - the American Dream.

Yet, America has failed to deploy universal, affordable, and robust broadband. When compared to the rest of the developed world, "[t]he United States is behind in broadband deployment, speed and price. Despite what some advocates and analysts claim, the United States is behind in broadband performance and its rank has been falling since 2001." From a ranking of 4th in 2001 among the 30 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in broadband penetration, the United States has "steadily fallen" to 15th in 2007. America also ranks 15th among OECD countries in broadband speed, averaging 4.9 Mbps, and 11th in the cost of broadband per Mbps.

This troubling trend will not reverse itself soon. America's global competitors are executing well-conceived and -financed national strategies to dramatically increase their competitive advantage in broadband over the United States, which has no national broadband strategy.

In the 21st-century global economy made "flat" by broadband, in Thomas Friedman's well-turned phrase, our nation faces a serious challenge to its global technological leadership, as well as its economic competitiveness. As many nations boldly strategize their rapid advance into the Digital Age by energetically embracing and exploiting the potential of broadband, America is being left behind. This challenge, every bit as serious as that which we faced in 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the first satellite into space, is our nation's "new Sputnik moment."

Without strong federal leadership on the deployment of universal, affordable, and robust broadband, the broadband- enabled, Digital Age "American Dream" that other nations' citizens are already beginning to enjoy remains to Americans just a dream. Failing to deploy universal, affordable, and robust broadband denies a wealth of tangible economic and quality-of-life benefits to our citizens, including:

  • Hundreds of Billions of Dollars in New Economic Development
  • Over a Million New, High-Paying Jobs
  • Increased Homeland Security and Public Safety
  • Better Health Care at Lower Cost
  • Enhanced Educational Opportunities
  • Reduced Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Reinvigorated Democracy and Government

To provide these essential benefits to Americans, and to answer the challenge of our nation's new Sputnik moment, the new Administration must launch a wellplanned, concerted national effort - paralleling that which deployed telephone service, electricity, and interstate highways across the nation - to deploy robust and affordable broadband to every corner of our nation.

Starting on his first day in office, the new President should declare that the deployment of universal, affordable, and robust broadband Internet access to every American household is one of his Administration's top priorities. His Administration should then immediately appoint a blue-ribbon National Broadband Strategy Commission to design a coordinated and effective National Broadband Strategy (NBS), a "coherent road map of policies and goals that complement and accelerate efforts in the marketplace to achieve universal adoption of affordable high-speed Internet connections."1 The President should immediately appoint a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) based in the White House to work in conjunction with the Commission. The CTO will then be responsible for the execution of the Commission's completed NBS in the public sector, and will lead a cabinet-level task force of department and agency heads to execute the NBS throughout the federal government.

Most calls for the deployment of universal, affordable, and robust broadband focus on proposals to increase the supply of broadband. In "Reaching for the American Dream by Connecting Our Nation," we recommend several initiatives that this new Administration and the NBS should undertake to stimulate broadband supply.

But while stimulating broadband supply is necessary to achieving the goal of universal, affordable, and robust broadband, it is not sufficient. The NBS must also promote initiatives to stimulate broadband demand. These include programs to ensure that all Americans have access to the digital skills and tools necessary to realize broadband's enormous potential benefits. These programs also include initiatives that employ broadband-powered applications to address critical challenges facing our nation, including economic growth, job creation, health care, education, public safety, energy consumption and climate change, and others. In health care, for example, promoting telehealth and health information technologies will not only deliver better health care at a lower cost, but also stimulate the demand for broadband. To reduce energy consumption and environmental degradation, the NBS should promote initiatives that support telework and the construction of a smart electricity grid. In "Using Technology and Innovation to Address Our Nation's Critical Challenges," we recommend several initiatives to address these critical challenges that will have the added salutary benefit of stimulating demand for universal, affordable, and robust broadband.

By promoting both the supply of and the demand for broadband, a well-conceived NBS will establish a "virtuous circle" in which an increased supply of robust and affordable broadband stimulates creation of applications that produce wide-ranging, valuable social benefits that then cause citizens to demand even more robust and affordable broadband; which in turn stimulates greater investment in more robust broadband; which then stimulates the creation of even more beneficial applications that cause citizens to demand even more robust and affordable broadband. Strong federal leadership, expressed in a comprehensive NBS, is crucial to ending the stand-off between those ready to invest in the deployment of robust broadband when great technologies and applications emerge to take advantage of it, and those ready to invest in transforming technologies and applications and who are waiting for robust broadband to be built out. By adopting a bold and imaginative action plan on Day One to connect all of our citizens to robust and affordable broadband, the new President will enable America to catch up to and surpass our global competitors on broadband, while at the same time utilizing technology and innovation to address our nation's critical challenges. The President will deliver to all our citizens the opportunity they seek for their children and themselves: to reach for the American Dream in the Digital Age.


  1. On January 20, 2009, the first day in office, the new President of the United States should sign an Executive Order that gives high priority to exerting federal leadership on broadband policy. This Order should:
    1. Establish a National Broadband Strategy Commission, composed of members from the public, private, academic, nonprofit, and other sectors, that by January 1, 2010 should deliver to the President an ambitious, yet achievable, comprehensive National Broadband Strategy to deploy robust, affordable broadband to every household in America. The Commission should also lay out a roadmap and timetable to deploy within five years to the vast majority of American households modernized broadband networks that are as robust, reliable, and affordable as those of our global competitors.
    2. Appoint a White House-based Chief Technology Officer to work in conjunction with the Commission. The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) should take responsibility for the successful design and execution of the NBS throughout the public sector.
    3. Direct the Commission to include measurable deployment and subscribership goals in the NBS. The NBS developed by the Commission should set goals on broadband network deployment, subscribership, price, and speed. At a minimum, these goals should include:
      1. By the end of 2010, every household in America will have access to robust and affordable broadband.
      2. By the end of 2015, the vast majority of American households will have affordable access to modernized broadband networks that are as robust as those of any other nation.
    4. Direct the Commission to propose broadband initiatives and applications that address the most pressing challenges facing our nation. As we discuss in subsequent sections, the demand for robust and affordable broadband will grow significantly if America utilizes broadband to:
      1. Modernize our economy to compete globally;
      2. Reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide gas emissions and address the threats that energy insecurity and environmental degradation pose to our nation;
      3. Deliver better health care at lower costs by implementing telehealth and digital health information technology;
      4. Improve education through the use of advanced online technology tools;
      5. Build a 21st-century public safety and national security telecommunications system; and
      6. Increase government transparency and empower greater citizen participation in decision making.
    5. Establish a cabinet-level interagency task force to execute the NBS throughout executive branch departments and agencies. Modeled on the Information Infrastructure Task Force, this task force should be made up of highlevel representatives of federal agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget, in coordination with the CTO. The agencies should develop comprehensive plans and policies to quickly and effectively execute the NBS, including interagency efforts that will cut across bureaucratic silos and stovepipes.
    6. Direct the OMB to issue an annual report on the status of the execution of the National Broadband Strategy, with recommendations for additional steps and funding to ensure that the NBS realizes its goals.
  2. The President should immediately on taking office promote policies to stimulate both demand for, and supply of, robust and affordable broadband, including:
    1. Direct the heads of all federal departments and agencies to take specific action to:
      1. Ensure that affordable, robust broadband is available to all Americans;
      2. Include the use of broadband in meeting the mission of their agency;
      3. Cooperate with the National Broadband Strategy Commission, make the implementation of the NBS one of their highest priorities, and prepare action plans on initiatives their agencies are undertaking to help achieve the goals of the NBS; and
      4. Report annually to the President on the progress of these initiatives.
    2. Direct the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to create a national online broadband mapping system that will aggregate useful and highly granular data on the nationwide availability, speed, and price of broadband;
    3. Open underused spectrum currently reserved for both public and private use for a new generation of wireless devices that will provide robust broadband service over great distances and rough terrain without interference to existing licensed uses;
    4. Support and co-fund state and municipal broadband initiatives to encourage the build-out and support of next-generation broadband networks. Eliminate state and local impediments to state-, municipal-, and community- funded deployment of broadband.
    5. Support deployment of broadband to underserved communities and populations.
      1. Modernize the federal Universal Service Program to support affordable, universal, landline and wireless broadband,2 as well as the Rural Utility Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, Community Connect Broadband Grants Program, and similar programs to emphasize the build-out of next-generation broadband networks in rural areas.
      2. Stimulate the supply of broadband in low-income communities by requiring as a condition for receipt of federal funding that public housing and other public buildings have robust broadband access available to all residents and tenants.
      3. Initiate and expand programs to extend broadband to persons with disabilities, seniors, minorities, Native Americans, and other populations that are too often on the wrong side of the digital divide. iv. Restore funding for the Technology Opportunities Program that will help develop transforming broadband applications to address the most significant and pressing challenges facing our society.
    6. Stimulate private sector investment in robust broadband.
      1. Accelerate depreciation of broadband equipment and tax credits for significant upgrades to existing network capacity.
      2. Issue federal "Broadband Bonds" to finance, in partnership with private entities, deployment in un- and under-served areas, as recommended in California by that state's Broadband Task Force.3
      3. Anchor Tenancy: Direct the General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service to assess anchor tenancy opportunities as a part of every agency's process to negotiate or renegotiate a telecommunications lease. Anchor tenancy can act as a catalyst, drawing providers to locations that have little or no access to broadband. By Executive Order, the President could require that agencies assess whether anchor tenancy could draw private providers to a surrounding unserved community or upgrade existing network infrastructure, if no other plans exist to do so.
      4. Collocation Facilities: Direct the General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service to offer, at cost, in un- or under-served areas, small spaces on federally-owned properties on which collocation facilities can be constructed. This will both reduce one of the cost barriers and also create "carrier neutral" facilities into which companies can connect with both regional networks and other networks that connect to major Internet connection points in metropolitan areas.
    7. Support open access to the Internet for all users, service providers, content providers, and application providers to the maximum extent possible, while recognizing that network operators must have the right to manage their networks responsibly, pursuant to clear and workable guidelines and standards.
    8. Support federal leadership to eliminate issues and concerns that deter citizens from accessing the Internet. Promote online safety, privacy, and network security. Strongly enforce laws against online criminals, spammers, promoters of frauds, and other illegal actors.