This week, a coalition of call center operators promised to create 100,000 new American customer service jobs, many of which could be done from home. But unless Internet access is improved, those jobs will be off-limits to one third of the country.
There are two hindrances to broadband. For 20 million Americans, there are no service providers in their area. Another 80 million Americans have access, but either can’t afford it or don’t want it.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says more Americans need access to multiple providers, and the FCC has initiatives to encourage cable and wireless providers to expand their services and make them more affordable. But at the same time, many providers are merging, meaning more coverage could be offered by fewer companies.
Most recently, AT&T and T-Mobile have announced a merger. Genachowski can’t comment on pending deals, but he says the FCC must ensure that access and affordability aren’t hurt.
“Competition is just essential to generate innovation, private investment in the U.S., and so, along with the Justice Department, where we have jurisdiction to review mergers, we take that very seriously,” says Genachowski.
Many Louisvillians only have one option for wired broadband access. The necessity of access has led many advocates to say broadband should be treated as a utility, like electricity or water. In parts of rural Kentucky, there are small co-ops or municipal service providers.
“Is broadband essentialy for participation in our economy and our democracy? Yes. Would we prefer to see universal broadband achieved through competition, multiple providers, rather than a monopoly utility? Absolutely,” says Genachowski, adding that co-ops and other small providers still have a role in national broadband deployment.