Obama Appointee Says Price Hikes by Broadband Providers 'Raise A Red Flag' for the FCC

By Susan Jones | March 11, 2010 | 11:23 AM EST

(CNSNews.com) - Rich or poor, disabled or healthy, young or old – the Obama administration says every American should have access to high-speed Internet in their own homes, even if it costs American taxpayers billions of dollars to accomplish that goal.
Universal broadband access is a key element of the Federal Communications Commissions' national broadband plan, which will be delivered to President Obama and the Congress on March 16.
On Wednesday, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, an Obama appointee, frowned on recent price hikes by broadband providers, calling it an “ominous” sign at a time when the government hopes to give all Americans access to high-speed Internet in their homes.
“This is an issue we must examine closely going forward," Clyburn said in a statement posted on the FCC Web site. She noted that 36 percent of people who do not have Internet service at home cite cost as a main reason.
"Across-the-board price increases, especially on those who can least afford it, should raise a red flag for the Commission," Clyburn said. "When prices rise across the industry, and where there are only a limited number of players in the game, we have to ask ourselves whether there is any meaningful competition in the marketplace."
Clyburn also objected to suggestions that broadband providers will roll out faster speeds only in the few markets where they have competition. If that happens, "our fears about whether meaningful competition exists should grow," she said. "If we fail to think deeply about these issues, consumers will suffer, and low-income Americans in particular will be left long behind.”
According to the FCC, an estimated 93 million Americans currently do not have Internet service (broadband) at home. The Democrat-passed stimulus bill charged the FCC with developing a strategy to bring high-speed Internet to all Americans. 
Commissioner Clyburn said the national broadband plan will recommend the creation of a National Digital Literacy Corps to help people on the wrong side of the digital divide develop the skills they need to be comfortable on-line and to take full advantage of all it has to offer.
In a speech on Tuesday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called broadband a "major infrastructure challenge," just as roads, canals, railroads and telephones were for previous generations. "Broadband is a platform for opportunity and economic growth," he said.
Among other things, Genachowski said the national broadband plan will "recommend the formation of an interagency working group to coordinate policies that promote broadband adoption by people with disabilities."
Moreover, “Delivering on the promise of equal access to the broadband infrastructure will require ongoing commitment and resources from both the public and private sectors,” he said.