Tuesday, March 16, 2010

National Broadband?

National broadband?!?! What are they gonna do next, try and reform health care? Yeah, right.

Oh, wait...

From the NY Times:

Federal regulators on Tuesday made public the details of their ambitious policy to encourage the spread of high-speed Internet access. But their 376-page proposal, the National Broadband Plan, was met with a chorus of questions, even from the staunchest advocates of its goals.

Telecommunications companies praised the intent but worried that new regulations might impede rather than encourage their progress in expanding Internet access.

And they weren't they only ones expressing doubt. To compete in the 21st century economy, there is almost universal agreement that National Broadband should be a priority of ours. Think about a patient from Wyoming being able to digitally meet with a doctor in NY, who's also able to conduct tests using their computers? Or a small business in Georgia exchanging data with their clients in LA? Or how broadband could lead to online training and education...

It's how we achieve this goal where folks are divided.

There still seems to be oomph behind the classic Government is Bad, Private Sector is Good argument, which I really don't understand. Then again, there was also conservative opposition against FDR's Rural Utilities Service, which between 1930 and 1940 increased access to electricity in rural areas from 10% of homes, to 90%. Think about that for a sec.

Arguably the four most significant innovations since WWII (besides Post-Its, McDonald's, & Facebook) were all created by Government run programs:

- The Internet
- Computers
- Jet Engines
- Nuclear Technology

(Who funded these programs, you ask? The answer is very important, and very telling: The Pentagon)

Back to communications...

In 1993, the Spectrum Auction Authority, and Telecommunications Act of 1996 also faced scrutiny. But according to Ed Markey and Reed Hundt:

Reform in communications stimulated creative destruction. For example, the old long distance industry charged ten cents a minute for a call when we passed the Telecommunications Act. Now people are not even aware that there used to be a long distance charge when they use their phones to call anywhere.

The replacement of the old networks with the new led to waves of innovation. Our reforms permitted everyone to unplug the phone line from the back of the telephone and stick it into the back of the computer. That connection was the first pathway to the World Wide Web - in large part because we did not permit the telephone company to charge extra money for all that extra and unpredicted use. The new demand for data connections drove telephone companies to buy routers and switches, to build data centers, and to upgrade lines. Cable companies were driven to respond by switching some of their capacity from one-way video programs to high speed two-way Internet access, giving rise to broadband. In response, the phone companies are now installing fiber, taking broadband to new levels of speed and lower price per bit.

Now we just need to ensure that broadband access gets to everyone, in even the most remote locations. It's one way we can stay ahead of our competitors, and guarantee advantages for the next generation of Americans.

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