Monday, March 09, 2009

U.S. "headed into an extraordinary period where the government is directly investing in broadband infrastructure"

From PC World today:

The nation is headed into an "extraordinary period where the government is directly investing in broadband infrastructure," said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, a media reform group. "This process of handing out $7 billion, although there's a great deal of urgency to get the money out the door, must fundamentally be data driven. We need to make sure the money is spent wisely, on projects that deliver the biggest bang for the buck for the American taxpayer."

Scott also called on the government to fund high-speed networks, not just basic broadband. "We're concerned that stimulus dollars not be used to build obsolete networks," he said. "If we want to make sure that ... we're not simply re-creating a digital divide by building a substandard network that then has to take another leap to catch up."

Scott's got it right on the money here. The greatest hazard with government subsidization of broadband telecommunications infrastructure is subsidizing yesterday's obsolete technology (such as DSL over copper) instead of tomorrow's (read fiber to the premises).

Anyone who's ever bought more than their first personal computer understands this principle. The best value isn't the lowest priced bargain. It's the machine that's got more processing power, memory and storage than what's presently needed but allows the user to expand and add new applications and programs in later years.

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