Broadband needs states' help

States should do more to encourage broadband deployment, said a high-tech lobbying group.

Despite their fiscal quandaries, state governments should develop strategies and provide financial incentives to promote the installation of high-speed Internet lines, said the Technology Network, or TechNet, a group of more than 200 high-tech and biotechnology executives. The organization recently released a report on beneficial state policies and roadblocks toward high-speed Internet access.

TechNet's report argues that states and municipalities hinder broadband installations by imposing costly fees and time-consuming processes on private companies seeking to install wires. TechNet wants states to adopt policies that standardize and speed up permissions and limit access fees charged by municipalities.

The report also said states should encourage municipalities to install high-speed networks in areas, mostly rural, where it's not profitable for private companies to build. Wireless capabilities were also discussed as ways to get high-speed access in some regions.

Broadband speeds of 1.5 to 2 megabits/sec aren't fast enough, said Rick White, a former congressman and now president and CEO for the tech lobbyist group. Instead, he wants 100 million U.S. homes and small businesses to have 100 megabits/sec connections at affordable prices by 2010.

"That's the sort of thing that would transform our backbone and lets us do the things that we want to do," White said.

Broadband is also vital for economic development, said Robert Filka, chief operating officer of the Michigan Broadband Development Authority, a new state agency designed to expand high-speed telecommunications services. Michigan topped TechNet's ranking of the top 25 states for broadband deployment.

States should have benchmarks to compare their broadband development to other states and countries, said Jeffrey Campbell, Cisco Systems Inc.'s director of technology and communications policy. But only a few states have conducted a thorough assessment of their existing infrastructure, according go the TechNet report.

Campbell said states can encourage broadband in ways other than providing money. Those methods won't spur private use but could make government operations more efficient and improve productivity through online services and faster and more information sharing, Campbell said.

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