To bridge the large digital divide in the US, the FCC is looking at multiple options for funding a more robust broadband infrastructure.
FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski announced earlier this week that by 2020 the FCC wants at least 100 million households in the US to have access to broadband speeds of at least 100Mbps. Broadband speeds available today to most Americans are about a tenth of that figure.
Reuters reports that Genachowski also said that he wants to reduce the cost of the Universal Service Fund by allowing schools to offer access their broadband connections.
Res Locus has long thought that access to local schools’ IT infrastructure is an obvious way to extend broadband access into the community. Unlike many of the security issues that arise from giving access to local surgeries and the extended healthcare network or giving access to the utility companies’ smart-metering network, providing access to the education network is a natural extension for community connectivity and for sharing local and regional information.
However, such a scheme brings significant challenges. Schools that are already strapped for cash might well find the additional overhead of opening up their facilities and providing after hours access a difficult and costly service to provide. It will be up to the local communities to step-up to provide voluntary or near-voluntary help to provide the necessary security, supervision and training that will be needed to make the scheme work.
Overall, Res Locus thinks this is a good idea, but it will need a lot more work to make it a national success. Other countries should look seriously at this model to provide faster broadband into local communities – particularly where there are large parts that are excluded because they are in rural areas or are unable to get broadband access for other reasons.
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