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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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September 22, 2008 9:40 AM

We Can't Afford To Miss This Opportunity To Wire Rural America

Last week I lamented the federal government's trillion bailout of the financial industry as proof positive that it's not that we can't afford a full fiber nation; it's all about our priorities.

This week I want to argue that this economic instability has created an opportunity for our politicians to prove their commitment to America's future, especially that of rural communities.

In the discussion about government buying bad mortgages to stabilize markets there's been talk about the need for these policies to also address America's infrastructure needs, as argued for in this HuffingtonPost article:

"The package should include at least $200 billion of new economic stimulus, in the form of aid to states, cities, and towns, for infrastructure rebuilding, more generous unemployment and retraining benefits, and green investment."

As we all know, fiber optic networks are the most important and impactful infrastructure of the 21st century. Those countries that get a fiber strand laid to every building are best positioned to drive economic development, find new efficiencies, and open up opportunities to improve all parts of society.

As we also know, for around $100-150 billion we could lay that fiber cable to every home in America.

But let's not let ambition get in the way of taking real action. Therefore I have an alternative suggestion:

We should take $10-50 billion of the hundreds of billions and even trillions that we're using to buy bad debt from and save financial institutions into a fund to wire every rural community in America with a full fiber network.

There are many reasons to pursue this initiative:

- Pretty much everyone agrees that we have a rural problem regarding telecommunications as private providers can't seem to find viable business models to upgrade their infrastructure, and cities are often overwhelmed at the prospect of tackling a project as complex and expensive as building fiber networks.

- Everyone acknowledges that without this new infrastructure, rural communities aren't likely to survive much further into this century and they most certainly won't be positioned to thrive in the global economy.

- On the flipside, if rural communities do have access to world-class connectivity, then all of a sudden they're able to compete on a level playing field with anywhere in the world, allowing us to move from worrying about outsourcing to embracing the concept of insourcing.

- On a percentage basis, this really isn't that much money, less than 10% of this latest infusion of $700 billion, 1% of the overall $2 trillion the government's going to end up pumping into the financial markets, and less than 1% of our $11+ trillion debt ceiling. Yet there's no infrastructure investment that can do more to encourage economic development than full fiber networks.

For all these reasons and more, it's my fervent belief that if our politicians don't address America's lagging rural telecommunications infrastructure in this great giveaway, they are doing a disservice to our country and ignoring the best way to guarantee a brighter future for all Americans.

If you agree with the arguments I make here, then submit a comment showing your support or suggesting ways to expand/enhance this basic concept, send this article to friends and family, or contact your local/federal lawmakers. Do something to bring this issue to the attention of more people so we can make sure we don't miss this opportunity to take a bold step forward.

The only way we're ultimately going to get out of this economic mess that rampant greed has put us in is if we can find ways to innovate and grow to take full advantage of that which the 21st century has to offer, and there is no better way to do this than wiring the country with fiber.

On a final note, while this issue is much too important to become a partisan political issue, I would also suggest to both campaigns that I can't imagine a better initiative to champion when it comes to proving your ability to operate with a forward-looking 21st century mindset as well as your commitment to the sustainability of rural communities than supporting an initiative like this.

Sen. McCain and Obama - You are both Senators. You both have the public stage. You can make this happen. Again, it's not a matter of ability but that of political will. And the only way we're going to accomplish the great things that America is capable of is through strong leadership. Prove that you can be that strong leader to guide America into the 21st century by supporting this initiative.

(And as an aside - Whoever supports this first will likely gain a huge edge among both young tech-aware as well as rural voters. So time is of the essence! Don't miss this opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: securing the economic future of America's rural communities while building support for your campaign.)

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