TechNet asks U.S. to promote broadband

The Silicon Valley lobbying group is asking Washington lawmakers to pave the way for broadband adoption in 100 million American homes and small businesses by 2010.

A major Silicon Valley lobbying group is asking Washington lawmakers to pave the way for broadband adoption in 100 million American homes and small businesses by 2010.

TechNet, which represents about 250 high-tech heavy hitters, released a report Tuesday asking the Bush administration to jump-start the adoption of affordable high-speed Internet access through a series of initiatives that include offering tax incentives and removing regulatory hurdles.

"This is an ambitious goal. This is a goal that's befitting of the world's technology leader," TechNet CEO Rick White told reporters during a conference call Tuesday morning.

Although the number of broadband customers has grown significantly in recent years, the rate of adoption is slowing. TechNet says that high-speed Net access is currently available in about 10.7 million American homes, only a fraction of the number it would like to see in homes and small businesses by 2010. The group hopes its appeal to Washington will make broadband a national priority.

"Broadband is a key element of any strategy for future economic growth and productivity," said Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers, who's also a TechNet member.

TechNet's primary approach is a hands-off one. The group is asking the federal government to "continue to exercise regulatory restraint" when it comes to digital content and broadband applications and services. TechNet also is asking for legislation that limits local governments' ability to impose fees and regulate local broadband connections. The group plans to create an index that will rate states based on their broadband policies in an attempt to promote competition among them.

TechNet also is proposing tax incentives to promote broadband in rural and poor areas and prevent the disparity between the technical haves and have-nots from widening.

However, the group cautions against letting the government pick certain technologies over others, urging lawmakers to let the free market decide which products prevail.

TechNet's proposal comes as the number of broadband providers has dropped significantly. Companies such as Excite@Home have collapsed, meaning consumers are facing dwindling choices for their high-speed Internet needs. TechNet is hoping its proposal will clear up regulatory uncertainties and encourage more companies to enter the market.

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