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May 27, 2009 9:40 AM

Susan Crawford: "Simply put, a digital economy requires fiber."

The quote I used above as the title of this post may be the single most exciting thing I've ever read coming out of the government about the future of broadband.

To help frame it, Susan Crawford's official title is special assistant to the president for science, technology and innovation policy and a member of the National Economic Council. But to put a finer point on it she's been described to me as the point person in the White House on broadband, in particular helping coordinate the NTIA, RUS, and FCC on their broadband stimulus plans.

Now on the one hand the fact that she'd say "a digital economy requires fiber" isn't news. She's been known as an advocate for fiber as our true broadband future for quite some time.

But that didn't stop me from being bowled over by this quote, which came in this article exploring the possibility of the US following Australia's lead by creating a nationwide wholesale fiber network.

What stands out most about the quote is how matter of fact it is. Instead of dancing around the issue or couching it in terms of bandwidth, Susan cuts through to the true heart of the matter: only fiber equals 21st century infrastructure.

Having a government official so clearly understand why fiber matters is a revelation. Though she's not the first I've heard express general support for fiber, she's the first I've heard cite it so specifically, and to suggest that without fiber the digital economy can't be fully realized.

This suggests to me that Susan fully comprehends that the "digital economy" is about a whole lot more than just YouTube, Google, and Facebook. That simply being connected at any speed isn't good enough. And that there's an entirely new economy of applications, services, and content that will be enabled by the ubiquitous availability of high-speed fiber-powered connectivity.

Yet not surprisingly, as evidenced by this article and elsewhere, there are many who don't believe in her vision. Either they think the market alone will get us where we need to go, or that we don't need to go there at all. And admittedly having government get involved on the same level as Australia would be a massive paradigm shift for our country, and building a nationwide fiber network in a country as large as ours will be massively expensive.

But that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't do it. Just because it'll be hard to do doesn't mean it won't be worth doing. Just because introducing this new paradigm may hurt some purveyors of the old doesn't mean that it can't also benefit them.

That's why I'm pledging to work with Susan, fiber deployers, and anyone else committed to this vision of a fiber-powered Internet. Everyone who believes that fiber is our future needs to begin coming together to build this argument and lay out the vision for what a fiber-powered future looks like.

The FCC's mandate to establish a national broadband policy provides us with a unique opportunity to have our voices heard in the creation of a strategy that isn't just good-enough but can match the aspirations of our forefathers to make America the greatest country on the planet. So submit your comments to them and start talking to everyone you know about the possibilities of fiber.

Because the simple truth of the matter is that without fiber we'll never be a superpower in the digital economy.

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