Saturday, February 08, 2014

California should invest in modern telecommunications infrastructure, not high speed rail

Stanford University public policy professor Joe Nation makes an excellent point in this article on transportation infrastructure. Nation, a former California state legislator, notes high-speed trains work in densely populated areas (like the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, for example) and not states like California with large rural, quasi-rural and exurban areas.

In the evolving digital, information-based socio-economy (much of it innovated in Silicon Valley), the Golden State would likely be better off  investing in fiber to the premise telecommunications infrastructure. Particularly since market forces don't tend to produce meaningful private investment in premise telecommunications infrastructure in less densely populated areas that are in danger of becoming neglected backwaters left off the Internet. Putting this infrastructure in place would also enable these areas to more fully participate in the digital economy, reduce the need for commutes to metro areas and benefit from services such as telehealth and distance learning.

High speed rail might have been a suitable project had it been proposed three or four decades ago. What's needed today is ubiquitous, high speed Internet.

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