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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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January 25, 2008 10:08 AM

$150 Billion Stimulus: I Can't Believe I (Almost) Agree with Huckabee...

Last night I was following along with the Republican presidential debate. At one point the dialog turned to the federal government's recently announced $150 billion stimulus plan to stave off a recession.

While most all of the candidates stated their support, Governor Mike Huckabee took a different tack. He suggested that perhaps a more effective use of that government money would be to invest in roads. By doing so we could bolster our infrastructure while sinking money into American goods and labor to get the job done.

I'm no economist but this idea seems to make sense. The whole point of this stimulus package is to get more money flowing into and around the economy. But the tax cuts and rebates that have been proposed seem like a less-than-elegant way to do so, literally just throwing money back at people and hoping they spend it at all, let alone on something that benefits our economy. (Will it really be that effective if all the products consumers and businesses buy are imported from overseas?)

But why roads? Sure there are many in disrepair--especially around the DC area--and adding capacity to major thoroughfares in order to ease congestion certainly won't hurt economic development. But what if there was a better way to spend that money to spur growth in our economy.

At this point, anyone who knows me has to know where I'm taking this, but that's the thing that boggles my mind: how painfully obvious this idea seems to be, yet no one seems to be saying. So here it goes...


I mean, I know of a host of American companies that supply the various technological parts to build a fiber network, of course we can use American engineers to design it, and American labor to build it. If we wanted to, we could structure it so that we basically give the new fiber infrastructure to private providers, helping to dramatically improve their bottom line. I mean, we could even go so far as to build out the network in order to support a base level of free connectivity for everyone.

The reason this was so obvious it hurt to me was an article I linked to earlier this week that highlighted research that showed the gap between stated private investment and needed overall investment to upgrade global broadband capacity to be $137 billion.

Now I know that's a global number, but then I'd imagine it's pretty safe to say that spending $150 billion here in the States would be sufficient to get a fiber pipe into every home, business, school, hospital, church....basically every building in America.

Can anyone tell me why this is a bad idea?

More than ever the sentiment I shared when initially linking to the story of $137 billion--that that number really doesn't seem all that insurmountable--seems to ring truer and truer to me.

The federal government wipes its collective posterior with $100 billion projects. Just last night I read a statement from one Congressperson lambasting another for holding up some bill because of a mere $10 billion, as if that was an inconceivably insignificant number.

What am I missing here? With $10 billion, couldn't we wire a huge chunk of rural America with fiber?

I officially feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

The potential broadband offers to revolutionize the efficiency of society is not argued by anyone. And everyone agrees we need to do more to get everyone online at faster speeds and lower prices, and that broadband access is the key to our country's future.

So to me this seems like an incredibly simple equation.

Now whether or not we can convince anyone on the Hill this should be a priority...well...

(To be honest, I'm not overly optimistic as we're in the midst of a wireless spectrum auction expected to raise more than $10 billion, and yet I have not heard one word towards the possibility of taking some or all of that money and applying it to the deployment of broadband, despite the fact the auction's being run by the FCC! Instead my understanding is the proceeds are going to be taken away from communications entirely and lumped into a general fund for all programs. Excuse me while I go pull all my hair out and jump out the window in frustration...)


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