Bush advisers tout broadband success

Is high-speed access more popular than color TVs or VCRs were? White House says deregulatory approach is working.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read
WASHINGTON--As Democrats were toasting John Kerry in Boston, here in the nation's capital President Bush's top technology advisers were touting their boss's broadband accomplishments.

Three Bush administration officials told reporters at a roundtable Wednesday afternoon that the president's proposals were on track to make high-speed Internet connections accessible at reasonable prices to all Americans by 2007.

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"The take-up rate for broadband is faster than anything we've ever seen," said Phil Bond, undersecretary of commerce for technology. He cited statistics saying that broadband was in more households than color TV or VCRs at similar times after their introduction.

In a speech in April in Minneapolis, Bush made a rare foray into technology topics by throwing his support behind deregulatory proposals favoring faster Internet links. The same day, he signed an order instructing federal agencies to open up government land to provide "right of way access" to companies that wish to run wires and fiber or build communications towers.

Last week, the Commerce Department launched a new Web site that gives information about how to apply for right of way access on federal lands. Approval or denial is expected within 60 days after the request is filed, the Commerce Department said.

Though Wednesday's roundtable was not a political event, it served to highlight how similar the Bush and Kerry proposals on broadband are. While Bush is more deregulatory and Kerry is in favor of more spending, both presidential candidates like Wi-Fi wireless links, believe that portions of the radio spectrum should be auctioned, want to extend the R&D tax credit, and say the private sector should take the lead.

Bond said the administration's goal was to "make sure that government isn't in the way or impeding" technological development. A White House fact sheet says that R&D spending requested for broadband will top $2 billion in 2005, up 14 percent from 2001.

Richard Russell, associate director of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP, said the president was eager to sign legislation renewing a moratorium on state taxes singling out Internet access. The House of Representatives approved a permanent ban, while the Senate decided on a four-year extension.

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Russell signaled that Bush would reluctantly sign the Senate version of the bill. "The administration wants legislation," Russell said. "Our preference is legislation that permanently extends the moratorium, but the president wants to sign legislation this year."

The officials, who also included OSTP director John Marburger, said the White House had not taken a position on any of the bills in Congress related to regulating voice over Internet Protocol services.