FCC\'s broadband plan opens shining new opportunities for Americans

March 16, 2010

By John Donahoe

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- People the world over love the Internet - and no wonder. It creates opportunities, which in turn creates jobs and wealth.

In the United States alone, technology and communications businesses represent millions of jobs and 13 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Globally, U.S. companies are the leaders in Internet content and services, computer and communications hardware and software, and the network equipment upon which the entire system runs.

Despite our success, the high-speed Internet ecosystem in the United States is neither as robust nor as affordable as it needs to be. As a result, we\'re missing out on creating long-term economic growth opportunities in our own country.

One critical solution is to provide every American with high-speed - or broadband - access and affordability. Clearly, we need more of both: Roughly 14 million Americans do not have access to broadband and an estimated 100 million Americans who could have broadband do not because they can\'t afford it or lack the skill set to use it.

Moreover, the pace of change in the Internet economy is speeding up around the world, and America is falling behind. Broadband adoption in the United States is approximately 65 percent, compared to 95 percent in South Korea.

Today, more than 20 countries have national broadband plans and are pushing to capture the jobs and economic advantages that broadband enables. In the U.S., the Federal Communication Commission is preparing to announce a plan to extend broadband Internet to all Americans.

This National Broadband Plan will accelerate investments in our data infrastructure, create a better environment for competition, and promote innovation at every level of the Internet ecosystem.

Bringing broadband to the 8 percent of American households that do not have access will have a tremendous ripple effect: High-speed Internet brings abundant new choices for purchasing goods, new options for finding jobs, new job training opportunities and - for those with an innovative idea and an entrepreneurial bent - a chance to create their own small business and contribute to the country\'s financial well-being. These micro-businesses can offer consumers access to more and better products, greater values, and a greener alternative to traditional big box retail.

Of course, more broadband will help spur another round of growth and job creation in Silicon Valley, as well as technology hotbeds from Boston to Salt Lake City and Austin to Seattle. High-speed Internet will also help accelerate innovation in health care and education, next generation energy networks and emergency response systems.

Consumers and big businesses won\'t be the only beneficiaries of greater broadband access and affordability. While every Internet user from Peoria to Paris knows the names of a dozen high-profile American Internet companies, we at eBay have seen first-hand the power of the Internet in driving the success of small businesses and individual entrepreneurs.

E-commerce is now part of the fabric of the small business community in the U.S., as hundreds of thousands of small entrepreneurs today run shops on America\'s online Main Street. They are the CEOs next door, mom-and-pop operators with kitchen tables for boardrooms. These individuals can start a business with a computer, a camera, a product - and lots of hard work.

Spread across the country in every community, these entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of small business online, and many of them started and grew their businesses on eBay\'s e-commerce marketplace.
These are people like Chris Matsakis, who used eBay to launch Chicago Liquidators, which sells just about everything from beef jerky to computers. Chris now employs 20 people, providing jobs in an economy starved for employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, Alexis and Tracy Perry of New Ringgold, Pa., near Allentown, got their start selling a few used clothing items online, and eventually opened a business called Peddlerz Trunk, an eBay store specializing in women\'s plus-size clothing.

Ron and Michelle Bolden of Willowick, Ohio, in the Cleveland area have relied on the Internet to do well and do good, running an online bookstore that financially supports a homeless shelter.
These are only a few examples of the resourceful small businesses that have long served as the nation\'s economic backbone. High-speed Internet is critical to giving these small retailers the ability to connect with consumers across America and around the world.

There\'s no question that the Internet has been a linchpin of the small business success story in the United States. Online, entrepreneurs have the opportunity think big and grow bigger.

We applaud the Federal Communications Commission for a forward-thinking National Broadband Plan that will provide more Americans with gateways to opportunity and the ability to take an idea, a product or a service and turn it into a thriving job or business.


John Donahoe is the president and chief executive officer of eBay Inc. Readers may write to him at eBay, Whitman Campus, 2065 Hamilton Avenue, San Jose, Calif. 95125.

This essay is available to McClatchy-Tribune News Service subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.


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