Julius Genachowski has added to the Federal Communications Commission's quiver of reasons to aim at high-speed broadband for all Americans: supporting U.S. troops.
In a speech in at the Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas, the FCC chairman echoed the need for broadband for a host of social services and general connectivity, but he framed them in khaki.
Genachowksi said the country is lagging the rest of the world in broadband deployment and adoption. He asked, rhetorically, why it matters that we are "middle of the pack" (echoing the characterization of a Berkman study the FCC commissioned on international broadband). He then answered the question by way of discussing a recent visit to troops in the Middle East (he spoke earlier this month at an international telecommunications conference in Beirut) and broadband's importance to remote education, healthcare, and morale.
He talked of a learning center on an Air Force base in Qatar; of using secure online sites to lift the burden of hard copies of medical records soldiers often have to carry with them; of the importance of interoperable public safety communications; and of soldiers staying connected with families when they are far from home.
"Broadband has immense power to improve the quality of lives of our citizens in innumerable ways -- whether it's our troops serving in Iraq or a family living in Little Rock," he said.
The commission appears to be building a case almost daily for far higher broadband speeds than its current 768 kbps downstream.200 kbps upstream definition of high-speed broadband in a world where current distance learning and telemedicine apps often need multiple megabytes going in both directions, according to advocates of both.
One of the keys to the broadband plan is what the FCC will define as communities that are already served by broadband, though the plan is a long-range effort that will take years to bring to fruition and could take a phased approach that starts with mandating higher speeds for anchor institutions including libraries, hospitals and community centers.
Whatever it decides, it will need to do so by Feb. 17, when it is scheduled to deliver the report to Congress.