22 May Bridging the digital divide is the wrong battle cry
Beating the drum for a socialistic platitude on the use of the country’s network infrastructure may be considered noble in some circles, but it does not capture the true essence of the total importance of having an infrastructure that can support and sustain economic development. Forget the “Digital Divide” and view our lack of infrastructure providing true broadband connectivity as a “Digital Desert” that affects every level of the economic strata.
As in previous columns, my current definition of true broadband connectivity is 1Gbps. anything less is not broadband and in the near future with the idea of pushing the envelope, 10Gbps will be the standard. So anyone thinking DSL is some hot speed, guess again. Today’s 1Gbps was yesterday’s T-1 (1.544Mbps). Tomorrow’s T-1 is 10Gbps.
A rare oasis is not the answer
If we are in a Digital Desert where all economic levels are affected, the rare oasis of high-speed network services that the incumbent carriers provide across a vast low-speed wasteland is not the answer. The national network platform should be clearly defined as to what it should provide and how it should be implemented
I received this e-mail that summarized Andrew Rasiej, the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) co-founder and digital-divide activist, who made what some referred to as a passionate case at the PDF 2007 Conference. He said we must try “to revive the digital divide as a major policy issue.” The e-mail highlighted:
He asked how many people in the audience felt the digital divide was still a problem, and few of us did. Andrew went on to talk about poor Internet access in low-income schools and communities, and how inequitable access is hampering civic participation and democracy.
Rasiej then announced that the Personal Democracy Forum will launch an online petition to elect “the first tech president.” He’s challenging the public to sign onto the petition and forward it to presidential candidates to get them to sign on to these basic principles:
• Declare the Net a public good. Bring broadband to everyone.
• Wireless public spectrum must be available and expanded.
• Go from No Child Left Behind to Every Child Connected.
• We need to support Net Neutrality.
• We need to create a connected democracy, where people can actually hold public hearings and participate.
• We need to use this to create transparency and accountability.
• We need a national guard of technologists to work during Katrina-like emergencies.
First, network infrastructure should not be rolled up as a partisan issue, or as an issue that reflects some socialism stance. Second, it should be defined as a common strategic objective as critical as national security that is a given, and not a hoped for, in any presidential candidate. Third, it should be understood as a necessary platform for sustaining economic development and global competitiveness, just like roads, airports, and other infrastructure.
Infrastructure equates to national security
Rasiej’s announcement does not go far enough in specifics, or far enough in setting the stage for a real improvement. It must include many facets that are necessary to provide the “big picture.” A decisive action plan and long-term framework must be crafted, not just a whimsical wish list or a simple declaration that “the Net is a public good.” It is much more important than that.
Rasiej should go further in his request as the basic principles should include
• Dismantling the FCC, as it is not doing its job and instead is protecting obsolete business models which are crippling the long-term competitiveness of the United States within the global economy.
• Creating a successor to the FCC with a set of clear goals and standards as well as a whole different set of people to encourage the implementation of a national standard for broadband connectivity of 1Gbps by a certain date and a 10Gbps standard for three years after that date.
• Standards that create a structure for driving the network infrastructure to be number one globally and the guidelines to sustain that status.
• Penalties and sanctions for any individual and/or entity trying to delay, restrict, or block the upgrades of network infrastructure, as that action would be looked upon as an endangerment to the strategic security of the United States. These would include, but not be limited to lobbyists, special interest groups, or anyone having an agenda to protect obsolete business models that undermine the overall competitiveness of the United States as long as they are in place.
Any call for a national broadband policy is a good start, but the reasons must reflect a concern and commitment for every level of the national economy, the national security, and the current and future global competitiveness of the United States, not just pockets and/or special interest groups at any particular level of the economy.
CARLINI-ISM: Infrastructure is not a partisan issue.
Recent articles by James Carlini
• James Carlini: New Urbanism: Community planning Feng Shui
• James Carlini: Mega-Metro Center may go beyond Chicago and Wisconsin
• James Carlini: Chicago-Milwaukee “mega-metro” infrastructure improvements are critical
• James Carlini: H-1B jobs: Where is the shortage of skilled workers?
• James Carlini: Proposed telecom bill would have “Katrina” impact
This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.
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