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AppRising delivers insight into new broadband applications, exploring their impact on networks and their implications for public policy.

AppRising is written by Geoff Daily, who covers broadband applications and the business of online video. Based in Washington, DC, Geoff regularly advises applications developers, network operators, community leaders, and public officials on how to maximize adoption and use of the Internet.

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November 29, 2007 11:14 AM

Searching for the Broadband President

In the midst of a hotly contested presidential election, now would seem to be the perfect time to start having constructive dialogue about finding real-world solutions to our nation's problems.

And given the transformative power of broadband to realize new efficiencies across all aspects of society, you'd figure the deployment and use of broadband and the Internet would be elevated to a place of prominence by candidates jockeying to establish themselves as the best leader for America.

Unfortunately that's just not the case.

This article analyzing the Democratic frontrunners' Internet platforms inspired me to delve further into what's missing in the presidential debates.

First off, all the candidates have made the usual cries about the need for more broadband, but I see little to no concrete suggestions for how to achieve that goal. Saying we need more broadband is one thing; figuring out how to actually get it is another.

Secondly, they all support net neutrality to one degree or another, but so far all we've heard is the same tired rhetoric equating net neutrality to free speech, without any discussion regarding how it might actually be implemented (assuming we can first all agree on what it even means).

On an even broader note, I'm pretty sure they're all in favor of using the Internet to a greater degree, but you'd be hard pressed to confirm that by looking at their sites.

I decided to conduct a little experiment by going to the websites of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards and searching for the terms "broadband" and "internet" on the pages that included details of their plans for education, healthcare, and government reform.

On Obama's site the only hit I got was in his call to have all bills be available online to the public for 72 hours before they pass (which is brilliant, by the way, assuming there's an effective mechanism in place for accepting and reviewing comments and that those comments can then influence the language of bills).

On Edwards' site the only reference to the Internet was a tangential one, referencing the rise of online donors in his call for campaign finance reform. He does make a call for universal broadband and net neutrality as a way to bolster democracy, though, so I'll give him a little credit for that, even though he gives far fewer specifics than Obama on how to use broadband to truly benefit democracy.

On Clinton's site? Nothing at all.

Now, I don't want to make it sound like they're not talking about broadband or the Internet. The problem is that the standard practice seems to be to sequester all things broadband under the umbrella of a larger technology/innovation agenda that also includes things like the need to push science and math in schools and support innovation across all sciences and technologies.

This idea that broadband is an end unto itself, that it's a separate issue from all the other issues this country face, makes me want to pull out all my hair and run screaming around the Hill in disgust.

When oh when will a candidate realize the potential of establishing themselves as the person most willing to wave the broadband flag?

When oh when will candidates start figuring out that broadband isn't a separate thing but an enabling technology with the potential to enhance education, expand healthcare, streamline government, reduce our reliance on foreign oil, improve efficiencies in business, bolster international commerce...the list just goes on and on of where the use of broadband can help us all realize the goals we have for this country.

As far as I can tell, no one's stepped up to claim this mantle yet. But when someone does, you can bet where my vote's going to go.


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Comments (2)

You are right on .The U.S. currently ranks only 18th in the world .We need to get it across how important this issue is. The potential that affordable high speed broadband for all Americans represents is enormous. The Communications Workers Of America are working on this effort with their Speed Matters project. We have ideas on our website, www.speedmatters.org on how to accomplish this goal. There is also a link http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/highspeedpolicy/?qp_source=sm%5ftellcong%5fnav to let your representatives know how important this is.

Posted by Roger Osburne on December 1, 2007 12:18 PM

Geoff, a very perceptive comment. Perhaps your blog can track what we are doing on developing a "best in class" broadband policy for Illinois, so that we have the benefit of the thinking of others like yourself. Perhaps you should be thinking of a "State of U.S. Broadband" essay as of 12/31/07?

Posted by Don Samuelson on December 1, 2007 9:02 PM

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