Dems: Wire Up Libraries, Hospitals

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House Democrats have made it clear to the FCC, and now to
the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, that the
national broadband plan should include getting high-speed broadband service to
libraries and other anchor institutions.

At an Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing
last week, House Communications Subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.),
told agency chairman Julius Genachowski that the plan should focus on "extraordinarily
high bandwidth" to libraries.

Libraries typically have free computers with free Internet,
and can become Internet hubs for hundreds, while the high-speed fiber can also
be a last-mile solution for nearby homes and businesses.

Adding their exclamation point were two Democratic
subcommittee members, Reps. Doris Matsui and Ann Eshoo, both of California,
and former subcommitee chairman Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

In a letter to the National Technology and Infrastructure
Administration, which is handing out billions in government grant money for
broadband deployment, adoption and education, the trio urged the adminstration
to put a priority on "anchor institutions, including libraries, schools and
health facilities."

A number of those institutions did not apply for that money,
the lawmakers said, because they did not fit the categories established by the
Broadband Technologies Opportunity Plan. Those that did apply found the process
"confusing, complicated and discouraging," the letter added.

The legislators suggested that the anchor institutions
needed connections of 100 Megabits per second to 1 Gigabit per second to
provide distance learning and healthcare services, for example.

The NTIA set 768 Kilobits
per second as a floor for defining high-speed Internet service -- the same speed
the FCC recently adopted in defining its minimum standard for broadband

The agency has said it would learn from the first
round and apply the lessons to the second, and perhaps final, round next year. Matiu
and company "strongly urged" prioritizing very-high-speed connections for those
institutions as one potential change to the program.