FCC tackles broadband this week

On Wednesday, the FCC’s open meeting will deal with a key issue of President Obama’s administration — the expansion of broadband access in the United States.

In preparing for the meeting, the commission tentatively identified the main barriers preventing widespread broadband adoption in the United States. The roadblocks, the FCC wrote, are affordability of service and hardware; insufficient digital and technical literacy levels; unawareness of the personal relevance of broadband technology and online content; and an inability to use existing technology due to physical or mental disabilities.

Third parties have until Dec. 2 to suggest how the commission should approach the broadband issue. In asking for public comment, the FCC posed 50 questions for which it seeks answers. The questions are designed to help the commission identify how and where people access broadband services — be it at their offices, at public libraries or using a smart mobile phone.

The commission also wants to know the cost to the nation of large numbers of citizens not using broadband technology. It seeks information on how to overcome the so-called “digital divide” that separates demographic groups into users and nonusers. Issues on the table are possible government subsidies for purchasing computers, digital literacy programs and government outreach using multimedia.