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FCC Chairman tells cable industry broadband adoption is too low

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told the cable television industry to increase their efforts at signing broadband computer users since the national adoption rate of 67 percent is too low.

“Sixty-seven percent is so far from good enough, that we can’t be satisfied with slow, step-by-step incremental change,“ Genachowski told attendees at last week’s Cable Show in Chicago. That U.S. percentage compares with about 90 percent in Singapore.

The chairman said broadband adoption had only increased by a couple percentage points in the past year. “It’s just not good enough,” he said.

Genachowski did not criticize the cable industry since it has helped bring broadband connectivity to 93 percent of American homes. However, he urged the industry to encourage more cable users to become broadband subscribers.

In an interview after the speech with GigaOm, Genachowski said there are some key reasons why a third of broadband-eligible people don’t take advantage of the service. That reason, he said, is affordability.

Many people, he said, don’t recognize the value of broadband or know how to use a computer to take advantage of the service. There are also concerns about security and privacy that come with connecting with the digital world.

On this, he said, the FCC is making several efforts at change. The commission is urging ISPs to offer low-cost broadband services to under-privileged households. They are also helping create an online clearinghouse for broadband ideas and best practices.

Making more government services and resources available online is another option. By moving government resources onto the Internet, the FCC believes broadband could prove more valuable to users.

The FCC also wants to make government data available online for third-party application developers. By allowing entrepreneurs and startups to build apps with value to consumers, the FCC believes it can drive interest in the Internet.

At the Cable Show, Genachowski announced the launch of a public/private task force to come up with more creative ideas to get citizens connected. He noted there are still 25 million Americans without broadband service.

Migrating the Universal Service Fund to broadband, which he said was “deep” into that transformation with cable’s help, will improve situation. “We have to get there,” Genachowski said.