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Bush on Broadband: "We'll do Better"

Internet News reports that president Bush made one of his rare public comments on broadband Thursday, promising that the United States will "do better" in increasing broadband penetration rates.

But he didn't say how.

In March 2004, the president set a goal of broadband access for all Americans within three years. "We ought to have universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007, and then we ought to make sure as soon as possible thereafter, consumers have got plenty of choices when it comes to purchasing the broadband carrier," Bush said at the time.

When Bush set the 2007 goal, America ranked 13th in broadband penetration rates. According to the latest numbers from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the U.S. has since fallen to 16th while other countries -- like Canada -- have risen in rank.

The ITU analysts attribute America's falling numbers to a lack of cohesive government policy while others attribute it to the vast and diverse U.S. geography. However, in contrast, Canada's geographic spread and apparent lack of population density hasn't affected their continued broadband progress.

"You mentioned that other nations are ahead of us. True, we're catching up -- and we'll do better, by the way," Bush said Thursday. "Part of the role of government is to create an environment in which people are willing to risk capital. Broadband expansion is part of creating an environment in which it will make it easier for people to be competitive in this part of the world."

The president called broadband expansion a "brilliant" idea. Yet offered not even the slightest hint that there was a U.S. game plan, to support that idea.

"People are able to do so much more from their home, particularly if you've got the technology capable of carrying information," he said. "One of the interesting questions we're going to have is the last-mile issue, and a lot of that, hopefully, will be changed."

Clearly, president Bush's hollow rhetoric points to why the U.S. has lost momentum in the global networked economy -- "hope" isn't a strategy for market leaders (like South Korea and Japan). And, in the continued absense of a substantive infrastructure investment plan, America will surely continue its slide down the ITU national broadband penetration rankings.

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