Connections: Beyond Universal Service in the Digital Age

Networks, the Internet, and Cloud Computing, Networks and Infrastructure and Broadband

Article Snapshot


Kevin Werbach


Journal on Telecommunications and High Technology Law, Vol. 7, pg. 67, 2009


This paper lays out a strategy for national broadband connectivity that is beyond current communications debates.

Policy Relevance

The U.S. needs a national broadband strategy to address the ubiquity and unitary concerns of universal broadband. This is an important policy concern moving forward that will promote innovation and investment.

Main Points

  • The U.S. currently lacks a cohesive and effective broadband strategy. To promote a universal broadband strategy both ubiquity and unitary system concerns are important.
  • Most subsidies support telephone infrastructure, not broadband, but adding broadband to subsidies would raise more questions than answers at a time when subsidy funding may be subsiding.
  • The proper universal broadband strategy should be thought of as a floor and ceiling. The floor is the minimal level of broadband capability a person needs to participate fully as a connected citizen.
  • The ceiling is the level of capability available to the top end of the mass market. The ceiling defines the kind of applications and services that can use the broadband platform.
  • Making sure all Americans have access to the floor is the first concern. Setting the correct floor is a question that depends on costs—including topography and population density.
  • By splitting geographic regions into three groups—metropolitan, “exurban” or small town, and rural areas—a framework for implementing a broadband strategy is created.
  • As communications networks evolve and transition, from traditional technologies to those based on Internet technologies, the ubiquity and unitary nature of broadband will reflect the character of telecommunications.
  • This plan addresses both ubiquity and unitary concerns and balances them to provide a national broadband strategy, the policy status of which must be raised to reflect both the potential, and the novel challenges of broadband.


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