Could another influx of USENET newsgroup subscribers be on the horizon? At the Digital Inclusion Summit in Washington on Tuesday, Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said his agency is considering establishing “free or very low cost” wireless Internet service for the entire nation.
“In order to ensure long-term American competitiveness, we must not leave one-third of the nation behind,” Genachowski said. “The National Broadband Plan provides a vision for federal, state and local leadership and partnerships with private and nonprofit communities that will bridge the digital divide and transform America into a nation where broadband expands opportunities for all.”
The FCC provided few details about how it would carry out such a plan and who would qualify, but will make a recommendation under the National Broadband Plan set for release next week. The agency will determine details later. The number of Americans online grew nearly threefold from 85 million to 231 million between 1998 and 2008, according to reports from Usenet newsgroups. The FCC plan would extend broadband online service to an estimated 93 million Americans who the agency describes as being “left behind in the digital age.” and could dramatically help grow the USENET newsgroup community.
Both the FCC and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration are charged with mapping out where broadband is, and isn’t, as part of the national plan to deploy broadband nationwide. Debate has already begun over the proposal to offer the cheap or free wireless broadband, which would involve taking back at least some of the privately owned TV spectrum.
The cost of the plan, which will be submitted to Congress on March 17, is said to be in the neighborhood of $25 billion. According to the FCC, 4 percent of American homes do not have access to broadband Internet, and three in 10 people in the U.S. do not have high-speed Internet because of factors such as price. A survey by the FCC provides a great detail of figures of those without access in the US.