Cyberbridge to nowhere


by Ann Treacy • A couple of folks have given me the heads up on a thoughtful article in the New York Times today (Internet Money in Fiscal Plan: Wise or Waste?).

Blandin on Broadband offers information on broadband use, access, and trends especially in rural Minnesota. Sponsored by the Blandin Foundation and their Broadband Initiative.

I can’t say that I felt like the article came to any conclusions – but it does a good job outlining several sides of the issue – does the money pegged for broadband in the recent economic stimulus proposals make sense. Questions such as:

Is there enough money to make a difference?
Is this money going straight to large companies?
Does the Open Access provision close the door to some able providers?
Does the whole plan turn off some potential investors?
Will the minimum speeds lead to overspending and underutilization?
Can they turn around the money fast enough to stimulate jobs quickly?

I think the most immediate issue is – how can you come up with a compromise that everyone will like? How can you be thoughtful and make a decision by next week? How can you build for the future and not overbuild?

It does occur to me that maybe we’re putting the cart before the horse. The US still does not have a National Broadband Strategy. It might not create jobs tomorrow – but maybe we need a national strategy to keep us on track before we start writing checks.

There’s a group called US Broadband Coalition who have been working on a National Strategy. The group includes some strange bedfellow –large providers, think tanks, nonprofits working on the digital divide, media companies and more. They are apparently working on a game plan (or Call to Action) to be unveiled this spring or early summer. While spring felt pretty far away with temperatures of -4 this morning, it will be here soon. Maybe it makes sense to defer the broadband expenditures until we see what they create – assuming they are going to be getting into details. Heck, maybe it’s worth writing the first check to them to speed up the process of creating/suggesting a National Broadband Strategy.
originally published February 3, 2009