Power to the people
- By Jill Rosen
- Feb 27, 2000
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Agreeing that broadband Internet access is the way to
shift from the information slow lane onto the promised superhighway,
governors spent Sunday afternoon considering ways to get America that
A group of governors, in town for the National Governors' Association's
winter meeting, convened the Committee on Economic Development and Commerce
primarily to discuss how to make broadband access easier and cheaper. Less
than 2 million people now use the speedy yet expensive Digital Subscriber
Lines (DSL). But by 2004 that number is expected to explode to 25 million.
Deborah Lathen, chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Cable
Services Bureau, compared the difference between a DSL Internet connection
and a regular phone line connection to the difference between a garden hose
and a high-pressure fire hose. She said it would take someone downloading
the movie "Titanic" from a modem connection 42 hours — it would take a DSL
subscriber just nine minutes.
"If that's what broadband can do for entertainment, imagine what it can do
for commerce, education and health care," Lathen told the governors. "It's
crucial for chief executives to understand the potential of broadband."
Although the governors did not vote on a resolution at this meeting, they
often use the winter sessions to privately establish their legislative
agendas. Gov. John Rowland of Connecticut said the broadband issues he and
others must resolve include access, price and choice — making sure people
can choose their broadband access providers — right now many people are
stuck with just one area cable provider.
Another huge question that's already pitting Internet service providers
against telecom providers and state and local governments is whether the
government can force telecom companies to share their cables with other
providers. Some fear that if ISPs can't get in on the cable lines to
DSL competition, cable companies will monopolize the market and price
lower-income people out. Cable companies argue they shouldn't have to share
the cable lines they invested in.