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Fight Brews Over How to Build a Better Internet

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The U.S. Internet infrastructure is slower and more expensive than many other developed nations, and reaches fewer of its citizens. About 10 percent of U.S. households do not have access to a high-speed or broadband data connection, and only 3 percent have fiber-optic connections capable of delivering the high-speed data rates that analysts believe will become a necessity in the future. Meanwhile, countries such as Sweden are already adopting the next generation of Internet infrastructure.

Part of the economic stimulus package currently being debated by the U.S. Congress includes $6 billion to upgrade America's Internet. Although experts disagree on how that money should be used, few question the importance of improving the Internet's infrastructure. Experts say that slow Internet access is holding back economic and scientific progress. The Communications Workers of America says that a $5 billion investment in broadband expansion would create 100,000 new jobs in telecommunications and information technology. Large companies favor government tax breaks to promote rapid Internet expansion, while Internet service providers in underserved areas say they need grants to pay for extending broadband to remote locations.

Under the current House bill, all the spending will be allocated through project grants, instead of tax credits, which may not get used for another year. Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, says the government should provide both grants and tax breaks, and says much more funding is needed. "We'd have to invest $30 billion to get to the same level [of broadband penetration] as the Swedes," he says.

From The Christian Science Monitor

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