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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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June 16, 2008 9:05 AM

The Next President Has To Be The First Broadband President (Or Why I'm Voting Obama)

It's inescapable that at least part of the reason the US lags behind other countries in the deployment and adoption of broadband has been the lack of leadership in the White House over the last eight years.

While it's possible one can argue that the Bush Administration's hands-off policies didn't hurt anything given the growth that has been realized, it's also clear that it did very little to proactively help spur the kind of growth that's been realized in countries like South Korea, Japan, and Sweden.

To some degree I can almost forgive them. In 2000 when Bush took office, despite its promise one could argue that because of the Bubble many perceived the Internet as being a passing fad. By 2004, broadband was being deployed widely and applications like YouTube and BitTorrent were being created, suggesting that the Internet was doing just fine without any need for leadership from our country's highest office.

But today, things have changed dramatically. We live in a time where we can no longer afford to have a void in leadership in the White House on broadband.

Broadband's available almost everywhere, but it's going to be a serious challenge reaching those last homes without it.

Broadband's faster than ever, but we're lagging behind other countries with no real plan for how to catch up.

Broadband's penetrated half of American homes, but it always takes more work to get the second half of subscribers than the first as you can no longer rely on early adopters finding their own way.

Broadband's enabling all sorts of new opportunities to improve healthcare, education, government, and business, with many people relying on it more than ever, yet only through strong national leadership will we be able to take isolated success stories and find a way to extend them all across the country.

These are all situations that will not resolve themselves quickly if left alone. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge believer in the ability of the market to innovate and find new solutions, and I'm almost never a fan of legislation, but at this point what we need more than anything is leadership.

If we are to reach the goal of 100% penetration, 100% adoption, and 100% use, we need someone to step up and say this is where we should be taking the country in the 21st century. And no one person or office has the potential to do that more than the President of the United States.

Because of this it's my fervent belief that one of the biggest responsibilities our next president will have in their first term is to claim the mantle as the leading champion of broadband in this country as no technology offers more promise to impact so many facets of society than broadband.

Which brings me to my final point: why these thoughts lead my vote to Obama.

To be honest, I've been a bit disappointed by Obama's support of broadband. At least publicly, he's blindly thrown his support behind net neutrality. He's begun to talk about the possibilities for incorporating online tools into making government run better, but he hasn't done near enough to talk about its application to improve healthcare, education, business, and so on. In fact, if you go to his website and search for the term "broadband" there are very few specifics it mentions and most of them were said in speeches in 2007 with very little said in 2008.

But on this issue, he almost gets my vote by default because of how far out of touch McCain is.

Go to his site, search for broadband, and you get a whopping 5 results. One of which is his support for a bill that will build a broadband network for first responders, which is great, but another is text from a speech of his from 2006 that cites the fact that broadband is impacting all facets of communication, yet if he believed that to be the case, then why hasn't he embraced talking about it elsewhere?

That's actually an easy question to answer: he doesn't know the Internet. He's admitted that he doesn't use computers, that he doesn't use the Internet or even understand it.

Now, I'm not expecting our next president to be available for me to ping via email, and I'm not trying to start a witch hunt for anyone who's left that doesn't use or understand the Internet.

But even still, we're living in the 21st century. There's no greater tool to improve our quality of life than broadband and the Internet. So how can we trust our future to someone who doesn't know about and believe in the transformative power of these new tools?

What this all boils down to for me is that it will be the responsibility of the next president to carry the flag for broadband, to provide leadership so that we may take the greatest advantage of what it enables, and to seize the opportunity to harness its power to transform society. But the only way these things can be realized is if we have a president who has at least some level of understanding about why it's so great.

Now if McCain's staff wants to embrace the opportunity to learn more and incorporate broadband-centric messaging into its campaign -- which they absolutely should -- then I'm more than happy to talk with them or any politician, regardless of their political makeup, about what's possible and what we can be doing to achieve those goals.

But for now, this broadband believer's vote is for Barack Obama.

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