Bush, Kerry sizing up access to broadband

April 08, 2004|By William L. Watts | William L. Watts,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON - The decisive issues of the 2004 presidential election battle: Iraq, the war on terror, job creation and ... broadband?

Well, maybe it won't serve as a candidate litmus test for many voters, but President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry have pledged to make expanded access to high-speed Internet an important component of their economic plans.

Bush offered no details on the broadband strategy.

Kerry, who unveiled a corporate tax plan in the first of three speeches on economic policy, said he would soon lay out his approach to boosting broadband access.

Broadband is an issue that looms large for major players throughout the tech industry, which has been fertile ground for Democratic and Republican fund-raisers.

Policy-makers have long been debating the best approach to broadband policy. The Federal Communications Commission last year ruled that dominant Baby Bell local phone companies don't have to provide rivals with access to newly laid fiber-optic cables - an important broadband conduit - at low, wholesale rates.

The Baby Bells say that will help spur their investment in broadband. Cable companies aren't required to share their networks with rivals.

The FCC also offered some relief to companies such as Covad that use a portion of the Bells' copper wires to deliver high-speed Internet access to customers.

While the agency plans to phase out so-called line-sharing requirements within three years, existing customers will be grandfathered in.

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