Although the the US gave birth to the Internet, the country lags behind many of its industrialised counterparts in terms of both mobile and broadband Internet access penetration.
In a recent statement, Charles Benton of the Benton Foundation digital communications public interest group, claimed that the US broadband gap is dangerous and that smug US authorities are about to get a wake-up call as shocking as that the nation experienced back in the 1950's when America was suddenly roused from its complacent technological torpor by the USSR launching Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite.
Independent statistics of record regarding US broadband penetration are regularly tallied by the likes of the OECD, (which places the US at 15th in the in the global broadband league), the UK research house Point Topic and the DSL Forum but an accurate US government-sanctioned broadband census has never really been properly conducted - until now.
This week, the Congressional Committee that oversees US Energy and Commerce policy approved a Bill raised by Representative Edward Mackey, a democrat from Massachusetts and the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.
The the purpose of the Bill is to fund the study of US broadband penetration and consumer uptake of the service.
The legislation also creates a "searchable broadband availability" map designed to help users find local service providers and pinpoint underserved areas that could be helped by government subsidies dispersed locally "to increase broadband deployment and usage."
In a statement, Edward Markey says, "If America hopes to catch up with the rest of the broadband world, we can't have policymakers flying blind with respect to where service is and isn't deployed, the speeds of such services, and consumer adoption rates. A national, searchable map will assist local communities to assess their own broadband inventory. Moreover, local planning grants will permit such communities to effectively organise to spur deployment and usage of broadband services in local areas."
This week too, some similar legislation, the "Community Broadband Act" also reached the floor of the US Senate for a vote. The Bill originally introduced this July by Senator. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, is designed to foster universal broadband access and more affordable services with a view to increasing economic development, improved public safety and education.
The Bill would also prohibit states from making it illegal for cities or towns to offer broadband Internet access to local residents as a publicutility - something that 14 "rogue" US states already do.
Senator Lautenberg says, "Broadband access should be universal and affordable. Such access would promote economic development, enhance public safety and increase educational opportunities for millions of Americans across the country. Towns and cities across the country are offering fast, affordable Internet, and states should be encouraging these
initiatives, not hindering them."
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