White House Declares Broadband Is A ‘Core Utility’ As Important As Water And Electricity

White House Declares Broadband Is A ‘Core Utility’ As Important As Water And Electricity

Pres. Obama’s administration has declared that broadband Internet is now one of the most important utilities that every home in the United States should have, but not all homes still have fast, easy access to the Internet.
(Photo : Brendan Smialowski | Getty Images)

The White House has declared that broadband Internet is a "core utility," similar to water, electricity and sewer in terms of its importance to every household.

In a 40-page report published by the Broadband Opportunity Council, which was created by Pres. Barack Obama in March, the council provides details on how the administration plans to promote the expansion of broadband Internet to all areas in the United States, especially to those blocked by barriers such as geography and income.

"Broadband has steadily shifted from an optional amenity to a core utility for households, businesses and community institutions," says the report. "Today, broadband is taking its place alongside water, sewer and electricity as essential infrastructure for communities."

The council recommends that federal departments take certain steps to encourage broadband deployment and provide people who are not yet connected the ability to go online.

Specifically, the report is calling on the departments to expand support for broadband deployment programs by offering them access to federal loans and grants and streamline the permitting process to speed up deployment.

For instance, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is gearing up to require contractors of housing development projects to include broadband planning for each of their units. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services has been offered a grant to improve electronic health records.

The report also recommends the creation of an online portal that provides information on funding programs that can help communities speed up broadband deployment.

Lastly, the administration hopes to provide resources to these communities to allow them to create partnerships with the private sector. The report recognizes that majority of the decision-making when it comes to deployment takes place in the local and private sectors, and the report recommends that agencies provide technical assistance to communities who wish to expand deployment.

"To address the remaining gaps in broadband coverage, the federal government will need to partner with these stakeholders – not only by providing funding and financing but by providing targeted, easily accessible resources that empower communities and help them learn best practices from their peers around the country," the report says.

Pres. Obama has always been outspoken about Internet issues. He is one of the biggest supporters of the controversial net neutrality rules approved the Federal Communications Commission in February and continues to encourage local governments to start their own community broadband projects.

To date, one in four Americans still do not have an Internet connection in their homes, although 84 percent of all adults in the United States use the Internet, according to figures released by Pew Research. Moreover, the bigger Internet market suffers from limited choices when it comes to Internet service providers, a situation that restricts innovation if not enough players are brought in to stimulate competition.