FCC Chief: Broadband Adoption Is ‘Just Not Good Enough’

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Washington — Federal Communications Commission
chairman Julius Genachowski said last week that the pace
of broadband adoption is too slow and called on cable operators
to step up their efforts. For his part, National Cable
& Telecommunications Association president Michael
Powell said the industry was committed to being a partner
in that effort.

That came in a conversation between the two old friends
to kick of last Wednesday’s morning general session at The
Cable Show in Chicago. Genachowski’s office had tipped
his hand the night before in speech highlights that emphasized
the adoption issue, which Powell teed up as the last
question of the interview.

Echoing Powell’s phrase in his keynote of the day before,
Genachowski said broadband adoption is what “powers
the American dream,” and empowers people to find and
get jobs, an education and healthcare.

“Sixty-seven percent [the current broadband adoption
rate] is so far from good enough that we can’t be satisfied with slow, step-by-step, incremental change,” he
said, noting that adoption had only increased by a couple
of percentage points in the past year. “It’s just not good

Powell quickly responded that Genachowski could
count on the cable industry to be a partner in that effort.

But speaking to an audience that had helped make
broadband available to 93% of the country and which
has taken a number of steps to boost adoption as well,
the chairman was looking to get more help, not to bite the
hand that was already
feeding that

“Cox has been
a leader on this,”
Genachowski said.
“One of the first
things I learned as
chairman was some
of the creative programs
that Cox has
been doing to increase
adoption.” He
also gave a shout out
to Comcast for making
a “very significant”
in the NBCUniversal
transaction and “then energetically putting it in place.”

But even with that, he said, “we need to step this up a
few notches. I am calling on the cable industry and other
industries in the broadband economy to step up and help
close the broadband gap.”

As expected, he announced the launch of a public/
private task force to come up with more creative ideas to
boost adoption.

Genachowski said three big gaps remain: deployment,
spectrum for mobile broadband and adoption.

Powell suggested that the deployment gap had been
narrowed considerably by cable’s 93% reach and the rest
of that proving a challenge. But Genachowski said the deployment
gap persists and, with 25 million Americans still
without broadband, “We have to get there.” That will include
migrating the Universal Service Fund to broadband,
which he said was “deep” into that transformation with
cable’s help.

On the issue of how the FCC should regulate the industry,
Genachowski suggested he shared Powell’s belief in
regulatory humility. He said he encouraged the staff to
focus “in a dispassionate way in asking what exactly are
our goals, what are the obstacles or challenges to meeting
those goals, and what are the best ways, in achieving those
goals, [of] being neutral about whether government action
is the way to do it.”