ALBUQUERQUE — Reaching back to revive an idea promoted by the man he beat for the White House, President Bush urged Friday that affordable high-speed Internet access be available to all Americans by 2007, saying it was essential to the nation’s economic growth.
Bush traveled to the Southwest largely to promote home ownership but spoke briefly about Internet access in remarks reminiscent of 2000 Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore’s call for an “information superhighway” available to all Americans.
The president did not say how high-speed access could be extended to all the nation’s homes and businesses, but in an address to Hispanic lawmakers in New Mexico, a state he lost to Gore by just 366 votes four years ago, Bush said a key would be to “make sure that as soon as possible thereafter [that] consumers have plenty of choices.”
There is already a fund that subsidizes telephone service in rural areas and for those who cannot afford it. Policymakers have debated whether the Universal Service Fund should also subsidize Internet access to U.S. homes.
Democrats, including Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Bush’s presumed Democratic opponent in November, accused Bush in a letter last month of failing to implement a “national broadband policy.” About 20.6 million homes and small businesses subscribed to high-speed Internet service as of last June, the latest data available from the Federal Communications Commission.
Telephone companies that dominate a market have to share their networks with rivals for telephone service, and there have been extensive debates about whether those rules should apply to broadband.
Cable companies do not presently have to share their networks with rivals but some allow subscribers to have an alternative Internet service provider. More consumers have signed up for the broadband from cable companies, with about 13.7 million lines compared to 7.7 million using telephone companies’ digital subscriber line (DSL) service
Reuters contributed to this report.