FCC chairman: U.S. needs to do better in broadband

Broadband adoption and availability in the U.S. and the slow pace in addressing broadband-related issues that affect the capacity to innovate and compete keep U.S. Federal Communications Commission Julius Genachowski up at night.

About 24 million Americans lack access to broadband and the U.S. doesn't rank as high as it should in broadband adoption, he said at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

"When it comes to broadband, we're not where we should be as a country," said Genachowski, who was interviewed on stage by journalist John Heilemann.

A recent study ranked 40 industrialized countries in terms of their international competitiveness and capacity to innovate, according to a variety of criteria, including broadband adoption and availability, said Genachowski, who didn't provide details about the study.

The U.S. ranked sixth overall, but last in terms of the rate of improvement in these criteria in the coming years, he said. "That scares me," he said.

The U.S. has a chance "to lead the world in mobile broadband" and it has gotten a good start on the road to 4G. However, Genachowski worries about the intense demands that increasingly powerful devices like smartphones tablets will put on the available spectrum.

He hailed an ongoing effort at the FCC to transform the $8 billion Universal Service Fund from being focused on propagating phone service access to promoting broadband.

Regarding net neutrality rules that many in the tech community feel the FCC has lagged on, he said the Google-Verizon policy statement that called for the agency to have limited enforcement powers didn't help speed up matters. "It slowed down some other processes that could have led to a resolution," he said.

Also unhelpful was an April court ruling in favor of Comcast in a case that centered on key net neutrality concepts and which the FCC believes made some issues confusing from a legal standpoint.

The FCC believes that the Internet platform needs to be open to entrepreneurs in order to promote innovation and competitions. "Preserving openness of the Internet is obviously important," he said.

FCC lawyers are working hard on the upcoming rules. "We want to make sure what we do maximizes innovation and investment throughout the ecosystem," he said.

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