Is it finally time for a national broadband policy?
There seems to be a consensus growing that the U.S. should (finally) have a national broadband policy. Now the question is, what will that policy include?
I think now is the best possible time to start answering that question, and here is why: We are in the midst of a presidential election campaign that promises to be hard-fought, and one of the major issues will be the U.S. economy. There is nothing more central to our economic problems than the ability to have true broadband access everywhere, and to make it affordable to consumers and businesses alike.
I’m far from the first person to say this. As manufacturing jobs have increasingly gone overseas, what is replacing them? Supposedly we have become a service economy, but digital communications enables service jobs to be shipped abroad as well, as many in the customer service and software development industries know all too well. The only way to ensure that the U.S. workforce remain employable is to give that workforce the best possible tools in the digital age, and that starts with broadband.
Many of the jobs that were outsourced to call centers in India could just as easily have been sent to rural communities in the U.S., where towns and villages are struggling to hold onto their youth as they see job opportunities disappear. Tech support, something that is likely to become more critical as more of the routine parts of our lives involve contact with technology, does not have to come with a foreign accent.
The other reason I think the time is now for serious debate on this issue is that technology options for broadband in rural areas are growing. There are new wireless options that promise greater coverage at lower cost.
A few weeks ago, I interviewed Drew Clark, one of the more outspoken advocates for a national broadband panel, on his efforts to do a broadband census to determine where there is real competition for broadband services and where it is lacking. If you haven’t already taken the broadband census, I encourage you do to so. Central to determining a realistic policy is knowing where we have broadband and where it is lacking.
There is still a possibility that this debate will be derailed by politics and corporate agendas, but at least getting it started is reason for hope.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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