A Broadband Action Plan for America

Charles Benton

In the Digital Age, universal, affordable, and robust broadband is the key to our nation's citizens reaching for - and achieving - the American Dream.

President-elect Obama can immediately exercise strong leadership to improve the competitiveness of the United States in the global economy by acting to craft a National Broadband Strategy.

On January 20, 2009, Americans will turn to President Barack Obama to make good on the promises he made during the 2008 election. One clear goal articulated by candidate Obama is that every American should have the highest speed broadband access - no matter where they live, or how much money they have. This goal is not achievable overnight nor with the simple stroke of a pen. However, President Obama can immediately exercise strong leadership to improve the competitiveness of the United States in the global economy by acting to craft a National Broadband Strategy.

A new report the Benton Foundation releases today - AN ACTION PLAN FOR AMERICA: Using Technology and Innovation to Address Our Nation's Critical Challenges - offers a draft Executive Order to implement the America COMPETES Act, legislation which Sen. Obama co-sponsored. Specifically, the Benton Foundation calls on President-Elect Obama to take immediate action on creating a National Council on Innovation and Competitiveness, a provision of the law he helped perfect, but that has been swept under the rug by President Bush.

The Presidential Council envisioned by President-Elect Obama and Congress in the America COMPETES Act would include policymakers at the highest level of government and 50 experts chosen by the President. The Council will deliver a National Broadband Strategy by January 1, 2010 -- a coherent road map of goals and policies that complement and accelerate efforts in the marketplace to achieve universal adoption of affordable high-speed Internet access and use.

In 2004, President Bush proclaimed a national goal of universal broadband by the year 2007. As we know now, that didn't happen. There was no policy initiative enacted to address his challenge.

Meanwhile, in a globally-competitive and interconnected world, America's competitors are implementing well-conceived and financed national strategies to dramatically increase their competitive advantage in broadband over the United States.

Unless our nation quickly answers this serious challenge, America will continue to export economic growth and good-paying "knowledge worker" jobs overseas to its better-connected, lower-wage competitors. Our citizens will continue to be denied the benefits of broadband already being enjoyed by citizens of other nations in job creation and economic development, in health care and education, in public safety and security, energy conservation and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and more.

By adopting a bold and imaginative action plan on Day One to connect all of our citizens to robust and affordable broadband, President Obama 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.

Additional Resources from the Benton Foundation:

Universal Affordable Broadband for All Americans

Broadband for Everyone, Everywhere

Why Broadband Matters

The Future of Universal Service is Broadband

Building Broadband Into Universal Service

Broadband Benefits

By Charles Benton.