Yay Broadband!


The New America Foundation and many other folks today put out what they’re calling “A National Broadband Strategy Call to Action.” I bring it to your attention because I think that they are right that making affordable high-speed broadband Internet available to everyone in the United States (not just Americans, btw) should be a top priority for the Obama administration. I even agree with many of their arguments:

“Too many Americans still do not have access to affordable broadband or lack the equipment or knowledge to use it effectively…Throughout our history, the United States has adopted policies to maximize the benefits of major technological advances.  In the 19th century, we promoted the development of canals, railroads, and electric power.  In the 20th century, we instituted policies to expand electric power and
national telephone and highway systems, and we transported people to the moon and back.  Now,
in the 21st century, it is time to adopt a National Broadband Strategy that builds on this tradition…  The federal government, in collaboration with state and local governments and the private sector, should play an
active role in stimulating broadband deployment, particularly in unserved areas.”

But, as those who know much more than I do have pointed out, the full Call to Action doesn’t  go nearly far enough. Several colleagues from the Berkman Center commented:

“It’s pretty good, all things considered, but I’d be a lot happier if it made some attempt (even with caveats like the “to the maximum feasible extent” language) to explicitly address net neutrality, non-discrimination, privacy, etc.”

“My only problem with the statement is that it punts on the hard issues, and thus says just about nothing except ‘Yay broadband!’
– The network management clause seems designed to allow for non-neutrality.
– It does not say a word about whether our current infrastructure is the right one for achieving the goals. Status quo? Throw the rascals out? Invest in new approaches? Go fiber? Go open spectrum? Private-public partnerships? Structural separation? (It does call for the “efficient use of spectrum,” but that could be taken as an argument for OR against white spaces, for example.) This is the opposite of a Bold Call to Action. Frankly, I’m hoping for more from the Obama administration. “

“Keep in mind that this is coming from a very diverse group, including AT&T and NCTA (Cable’s trade association).  About the best you could hope for out of that crowd is “Yay, broadband.”  So, yes, it’s pretty watered down and non-specific.

That being said, simply stating that broadband is important and is a priority is a good thing.  It is a call to action without specifying what exactly the action should be. I would certainly hope that the new Administration would be able to say something more concrete about their policy goals.”

So, New America Foundation and company – keep up the good work. There are lots of folks who need to hear this.

Obama tech team – we expect you to be BOLDER than a coalition of communications providers, high technology companies, manufacturers, consumers, labor unions, public interest groups, educators, state and local governments, utilities, content creators, foundations, and other stakeholders in America’s broadband future.

Image: Inside a broadband router (blueish general view)
Uploaded on March 30, 2007

by jepoirrier

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