Thursday, April 23, 2015

States can't do it alone -- federal funding needed to modernize U.S. telecom infrastructure

Coalition seeks overhaul of Maine broadband plan - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram: A coalition of Maine businesses, towns and nonprofit groups on Tuesday threw its support behind a bill to overhaul the state’s broadband policy for the first time in nearly a decade, a component of which suggests financing the expansion of high-speed Internet service through a new tax on cellphones.

The proposal, introduced by state Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, would require an updated strategic plan to expand broadband access in Maine and stronger efforts to support community broadband planning efforts.

Members of the Maine Broadband Coalition – a collection of more than three dozen towns and cities, businesses and nonprofit organizations – said expanding access to high-speed Internet service is expensive, but necessary for economic development.

“This is not a million-dollar problem. It is far larger,” said Fletcher Kittredge, chief executive officer of Great Works Internet and a member of the coalition.

Kittredge nails it. State telecommunications infrastructure financing programs provide funding in the modest millions for infrastructure that costs billions to deploy. The United States needs to revamp its telecommunications for the Internet age just as it financed electrical distribution facilities and highways in the 20th century.

Given the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has deemed Internet telecommunications a common carrier utility -- one that plays a vital role in supporting interstate commerce  -- the federal government clearly has a stake. It should appropriate comprehensive funding to get the job done and not leave it solely to the states that lack the economic resources to do it themselves. Federal funding for telecom infrastructure modernization would produce a multiplier effect that will return much of it to the U.S. Treasury through increased economic activity.

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