President-elect Barack Obama's proclamation this past weekend that broadband and national Internet access must be universal sounded the gong that this priority will be the part of what observers call his "new New Deal," and is making the broadband wireless community downright gaga over the prospects. In the early 20th Century, the New Deal meant money for highway construction and other public works projects, but in the 21st Century, broadband is getting added to the list. (See story No. 5)
Now the dirty work begins. How does this all come to fruition? How will the funds be doled out, what companies and technology will benefit and what strings will be attached in terms of regulations? Will it come in the form of support for nationwide operators or a nationwide licensee that would require the winning bidder to open up 25 percent of its network for free broadband access? (Earlier this week I got an email from M2Z PR folks with the subject line: "Obama Adopts M2Z Plan, Promises 100% Broadband Availability." M2Z has been pushing the FCC to adopt rules next week that would license a nationwide wireless broadband operator and set aside a portion for free broadband to the country's have-nots.)
Or does it come from a local level? According to a new survey of economic development professionals from Craig Settles, head of Successful.com, the solution for turning broadband into an economic development engine lies primarily in the hands of local and regional governments and businesses via municipal broadband networks, with the federal government playing an important supporting role. The worst thing that could happen is to have the national telecom companies driving national broadband policy, they said.
While Obama's plan is being applauded by consumer groups across they country, the devil is certainly in the details. Let's hope it's something Obama can effectively make reality without it being mired down in lobbying and politics during the next four years.--Lynnette