The U.S. needs to adopt a comprehensive broadband policy to bring connections to many areas of the country that don't yet have them, two Democratic politicians said Monday.

U.S. Representative Donna Edwards, who represents a district just outside Washington, D.C., said she does not have access to broadband service in her Fort Washington, Maryland, home.

Edwards hasn't used her home dial-up connection for months, she said during a OneWebDay event in Washington. "It's too much of a pain," she said. "It's too cumbersome. All of the data, all of the information that really I most want, you can't just handle on dial-up."

In addition, an elementary school near Edwards' house has limited access to the Internet, she said. The students "really should be engaged on the Internet for information, for resources, for research, but they can't be because they're in an old school with old wiring that's not really equipped to handle today's technology," she said.

Without broadband those students will be "left farther and farther behind," Edwards added. Many areas don't have broadband despite government reports saying about 99 percent of U.S. postal codes have broadband service, she said.

The goal of OneWebDay is to focus attention on key Internet values. First celebrated in 2006, OneWebDay has expanded since then, and events were held Monday in more than 30 cities across the globe.

Participants in the Washington event pushed for a comprehensive U.S. broadband policy that would bring broadband access to all U.S. residents, as well as net neutrality policies that would prohibit broadband providers from blocking or slowing some Web content.

Edwards and Jonathan Adelstein, a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, both called on the U.S. Congress to develop a far-reaching broadband policy that would accelerate the rollout of faster broadband across the U.S. Adelstein, like Edwards a Democrat, also called for the FCC and Congress to enforce net neutrality rules.

Broadband allows new forms of democratic participation, including citizen journalists, debates and fundraising, Adelstein said. Broadband is an essential part of the solutions for many of the problems facing the U.S., including a stagnant economy and health care costs, Adelstein said. Without net neutrality laws or regulations, some political debates could be stifled, he said.

Broadband providers and free-market think tanks have argued that U.S. broadband rollout is happening quickly, despite some reports that the U.S. lags behind many other industrialized nations. In addition, net neutrality rules could limit broadband providers' ability to manage congestion on their networks, providers have argued.

Fast broadband and nationwide coverage may be incompatible goals, some critics have suggested.

Broadband providers need incentives to invest in more broadband capacity while managing the use of their services, said Berin Szoka, a visiting fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation.

"Making more bandwidth available simply encourages the development of new services and content whose use and consumption requires more bandwidth," Szoka wrote last month on the foundation's blog. "The significant advances in bandwidth available to U.S. broadband consumers in recent years have made it possible for us all to share huge amounts of data through peer-to-peer file-sharing services, view essentially infinite amounts of video, back up hundreds of gigabytes on online storage services ... and even begin moving our most basic computing tools like email and word processing into the 'cloud.'"

In the past 29 years, Internet access speeds in the U.S. have increased from 300 bits per second to 20 megabits per second on fiber connections, wrote Link Hoewing, Verizon's assistant vice president of Internet and technology issues.

"Today [there are] 60 million U.S. households wired with broadband," Hoewing wrote on the Verizon public policy blog. "Broadband connectivity has grown more than 300 percent in four years. And what may amaze some is how broadband speeds have continuously advanced. If you do the math, speeds have nearly doubled every 20 months or so."

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The Selangor government is reviewing a RM400mil broadband network installation contract awarded to Kannaltec Bhd’s subsidiary Obnet Sdn Bhd and may reduce the number of installation jobs given to the company.

Kannaltec executive chairman Datuk Mohan Kandasamy said the company would ask for compensation if the contract was downsized.

“The original conditions (were) for (a) RM400mil contract involving the installation of broadband infrastructure network in 345 sites,” he said, adding that the company had completed the broadband installation work in 31 sites.

Kannaltec’s contract was awarded by the previous Barisan Nasional state government.

The present state government under Pakatan Rakyat has been reviewing contracts given under the previous administration.

Under the 20-year contract, Kannaltec was to build, operate and maintain a high-speed broadband infrastructure network that would link municipal councils, statutory bodies, government departments and government-linked companies in the state.

Meanwhile, Mohan said the company hoped to secure some outsourcing jobs from the United States and Britain in order to broaden its income base.

“We are in talks with several parties from the banking, financial and insurance industries and expect the negotiations to be concluded before year-end,” he said, adding that the expanding outsourcing business provided significant opportunities for Kannaltec.

The outsourcing business currently contributes some 45% of Kannaltec’s revenue.

Kannaltec’s Thailand operations had broke even and the company planned to venture into the Philippines market sometime this year, Mohan said.

While the company was aiming for organic growth, Mohan said Kannaltec might look for merger and acquisition opportunities locally and abroad in the next financial year ending March 31, 2010.

On Kannaltec’s public shareholding spread, Mohan said the company was confident of fulfilling the requirement in the next six months and might implement an employees share option scheme (ESOS).

“We have applied for an extension of six months to meet the required public shareholdings spread and are waiting for Bursa Malaysia’s response,” he said.

The company had earlier been given until Oct 1 to comply with Bursa’s listing requirement of having a minimum 1,000 public shareholders. It currently has about 800 public shareholders holding at least 100-share lots.

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Hanaro Telecom is now called SK Broadband, and the company’s president Cho Shin on Monday met reporters after announcing the launch of the new corporate image. "With the new company name beginning with 'SK,’ we're going to introduce packages combining Internet phone, super-speed Internet and IPTV as well as super-speed Internet service through a distribution network including SK Telecom agencies,” he said. While admitting that the firm surrendered the top position in IPTV to its rival KT by a narrow margin, he said this was “a temporary phenomenon.”

SK Broadband's new corporate logo features the SK "wings of happiness" plus the name in orange script. The Hanafos broadband Internet service will be called broad&, while the Hanafone fixed-line telephony service was renamed broad&fone. The HanaTV IPTV service will be called broad&tv.

"We've focused on letting consumers know of the relationship between our company and the parent company SK Telecom through our new corporate image,” Cho said.

To bring home that SK Broadband is now a subsidiary of SK Telecom, the company used SK's brand name, logo and corporate color to link itself with its parent company. SK Telecom became the largest shareholder in Hanaro Telecom by buying a 43.59 percent stake in March.

Asked how the company will compete with its rivals, Cho said he would charge "rational prices.” SK Broadband will sell a package including VoIP Internet phone, super-speed Internet and IPTV (broad&tv), for W33,000 (US$1=W1,143) a month from October.

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