Few would argue that universal access to high-speed internet service is a key to the nation's economic competitiveness; at schools and colleges, for instance, the continued growth of distance education is dependent on better, faster, and more reliable internet service, including to students' homes.

At the beginning of the year, Bush administration officials painted a rosy picture of the state of broadband access across the United States. A report from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) concluded that the goal of affordable access to broadband service for everyone has been realized "to a very great degree."

The NTIA report drew its


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