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Broadband is booming in America

By JAVIER PALOMAREZ, UPI Outside View Commentator   |   July 19, 2013 at 12:02 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- Let's talk about good news. It's called broadband and, as a June 2013 White House report makes clear, there's a lot to celebrate.

Just a few years ago, it was common to lament that America was falling behind Europe and others in terms of broadband access, availability and speed. Today, it's clear that we've not only made remarkable progress in delivering high-speed connectivity to the overwhelming majority of Americans but in many ways we now lead.

For example, 94 percent of U.S. homes have access to broadband with speeds of 10 megabits per second or higher and more than two-thirds of U.S. homes are hooked up to the Internet -- compared to just more than 4 percent in 2000.

In 2012, North America's average mobile data connection speed was, the fastest in the world, nearly twice that available in Western Europe, and more than five times the global average. And with only 5 percent of the world's population, we now have more than 50 percent of the world's subscribers to 4G LTE advanced mobile broadband.

Since 2009, when U.S. President Barack Obama took office, average broadband speeds have doubled, private sector telecom investment has surged skyward, especially for wireless, and the number of homes reached by high-speed networks has more than quadrupled.

The White House report summed it this way: "High-speed wired and wireless networks place the United States at the center of a digital economy that is one of the brightest parts of our short-term recovery and long-term competitiveness." It specifically noted "remarkable gains" in wireless availability.

Expanding broadband is vital, not just because it's nice to be the global leader, but because of the benefits that come with it.

Broadband creates vast new economic opportunities across the economic spectrum and delivers new access to quality healthcare and education for minorities, poorer Americans and rural communities that haven't always had access to the services they need.

It's also providing a powerful new platform for every American who wants to speak out and be heard.

An analysis by the Progressive Policy Institute shows a rapid job growth rate of 40 percent in the mobile apps economy over the past year, accounting for approximately 752,000 U.S. jobs today. These jobs can be found in California, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York and other parts of the country.

The president can rightly take a bow. He has been a ready and steady advocate for accelerating the spread of broadband. He has consistently pressed federal agencies to facilitate deployment; he's generally stood by a light-touch regulatory model, first embraced by President Bill Clinton, to enable private sector innovation and investment in Internet-based networks, services, applications, and devices; and he's embraced an ambitious goal of providing more spectrum for wireless. He's now rolling out new initiatives to help meet his spectrum goals.

These smart policies have opened the door to an astounding amount of private investment as fixed and mobile broadband providers compete aggressively to meet customer needs.

Here's how the White House puts it:

"Responding to the increasing consumer demand for services accessed through broadband, the private sector has been driving important advances in infrastructure and technology. U.S. telecommunications firms have made significant investments in infrastructure; for example, just two of the largest U.S. telecommunications companies account for greater combined stateside investment than the top five oil/gas companies, and nearly four times more than the big three auto companies combined. In fact, since President Obama took office in early 2009, nearly $250 billion in private capital has been invested in U.S. wired and wireless broadband networks."

The results are clear. Americans are benefitting from a stunning array of choices in devices, connecting more than 500 million devices to the Internet, eagerly embracing innovative new applications and services, and leading the world in the adoption of LTE for wireless connectivity. The White House report notes that the United States is on track to deliver high-speed 4G wireless broadband to 98 percent of the population by 2016.

In this area, government policymakers have generally worked to create the right environment and find the right balance that successfully protects consumers while also providing the private sector with freedom necessary to compete, innovate and invest.

At a time when many of us are discouraged by failures in Washington, broadband policy is working pretty well.

We should celebrate -- and also urge the president to stay the course with policies that will help continue the type of economic growth created by bringing 21st-century broadband technology to all Americans.

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(Javier Palomarez, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is an influential voice not only in the Latino community but in the overall business community as well as with policymakers.)

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(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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