A Washington think tank has blasted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Bush administration for failing to invest in and develop a robust broadband network in the US that can support consumers as well as first responders and anti-terrorist teams.
"The policy of relying on market forces that the Bush administration claimed for seven years would propel broad access is irresponsible and insufficient," Mark Lloyd, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP), said in a statement on the organisation's website.
"The result of administration neglect, industry intransigence and the incompetence of the Federal Communications Commission ... has left the American people and most policymakers with no clear idea where broad services are deployed in the US," said Lloyd, who is also an affiliated professor at Georgetown University's Public Policy Institute.
Although it's a nonpartisan organisation, the CAP is headed by John Podesta, who served as chief of staff to Bill Clinton when he was president. PJ Crowley, CAP's director of homeland security, served as Clinton's special assistant for national security and joined Lloyd in a call with reporters.
Lloyd and Crowley urged policymakers, including the presidential candidates, to find government funds to support the building of a 10Gbit/sec., redundant and ubiquitous broadband network. They also urged current leaders to create a commission to implement that goal.
"We should not wait for another Katrina or 9/11 for this to happen," Lloyd said. The CAP said the broadband network could be wired and wireless. The organisation also said the network must provide enough components so that if one system fails, another is available and the network can quickly repair itself.
The FCC has created an elaborate system to auction off 700-MHz wireless spectrum starting Thursday, including a special D Block that would be shared by first responders and commercial users.
But even the plans to use that portion of the spectrum for public safety imperiled, since the sole known bidder, Frontline Wireless, failed to submit a $128m down payment to the FCC to qualify to bid. On January 12, the company issued a short statement saying: "Frontline Wireless is closed for business at this time. We have no further comment."
"The bidding on the D Block is a perfect example of the challenge the FCC faces," said Lloyd, who urged Verizon Wireless or Google to consider bidding on the D Block. "We need somebody to step up to the plate and if not, the feds must. We cannot rely on market forces alone."
Lloyd said all branches of government need to work with service providers in a "necessary and forced partnership" to bring about a broadband network.