Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why We Should Build a National Internet System Under the National Highway System - Eric Jaffe - The Atlantic Cities

Why We Should Build a National Internet System Under the National Highway System - Eric Jaffe - The Atlantic Cities: The National Broadband Plan of 2009, for instance, was mostly limited to policy recommendations and failed to encourage competition (which explains why incumbent providers like it so much). Proposed legislation requiring highway projects to install broadband conduit hasn't made it too far. The Obama Administration did issue an executive order last year calling for a "dig once" [PDF] policy to help promote broadband-highway coupling, but that still relies on private enterprise to do what it hasn't done to date: lay fiber everywhere.

So why not make the whole national internet system a public one, like the national highway system before it? At a time when elected officials are struggling to find a truly federal transportation goal, the concept might serve as a welcome rallying point. The government could sell some of its broadcast spectrum to foot the bill, but the user-pay model could probably work well, too — especially since people don't suffer the illusion that Internet access is free, unlike they do with roads.

"There is a really interesting parallel between transportation and broadband," says Lennett. "In the 20th century we needed to move cars, and in the 21st century we need to move bits.

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