Comcast: Broadband Adoption Needs DTV-Like Education Campaign

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Noting Comcast wants a national broadband plan that works, and likening it to the full-court press on the DTV transition, executive vice president David Cohen says the company is advising the FCC to concentrate on getting service to areas with no access to wireless or wired Internet, as well as on encouraging broadband adoption in places where there is already service available.

Comcast wants carefully targeted government incentives to help reach the 8% of the country that does not have access to at least one broadband service provider. Cohen, in a blog posting, points out that the other 92% that have it were built by companies without government subsidies or guarantees of a return, while the other 8% were where "it make no economic sense for a company to build a network."

He said that the $7 billion in economic stimulus money would be a good start to filling that 8% gap, suggesting there would be nothing left over to underwrite competition in the remaining 92%.

What Cohen and Comcast don't want is for the government to underwrite billion of dollars worth of government-run networks to compete with existing cable, phone and wireless service, which he calls a "counterproductive waste of money."

The top cable company's position was previewed in the blog for its filing to the Federal Communications Commission Monday, the deadline for comments on the agency's Congressionally mandated national broadband rollout plan, which it must come up with by next February.

Comcast is also strongly opposed to the forced resale of networks to competitors, saying it expects that also to be among the proposals the FCC gets.

Cohen said that the 30% who have access to broadband but have not adopted it remain on the digital sideline for a number of reasons, including lack of digital literacy skills; lack of money to pay for computers or the service; and fear of exposing their kids to the dangers of the Web.

He writes that the government should focus on that side of the equation with a DTV transition-like education push and subsidies: "[A]fter al,l we're just about to complete the conversion of 100 percent of American homes to digital TV through an intensive education campaign and subsidies for equipment... why not do the same for broadband?"

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has long argued that focusing on adoption rather thatn underwriting competition to existing networks is the way to go.

Verizon's top Washington policy executive, Tome Tauke, made very similar arguments about boosting adoption in a briefing with reporters earlier this week on broadband rollout, also talking about helping folks become more digitally literate and overcoming their fears of identity theft and protecting kids from unwanted content.

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