Readers weigh in on Obama's broadband New Deal

Last week I wrote about President-elect Barack Obama's proclamation that broadband and national Internet access must be universal, which signaled a move on his part that broadband initiatives are going to be part of government public works projects. I then questioned how it will all come to fruition and whether it will be most effective on a local level or a national level.

Readers have since weighed in, and they unanimously believe such efforts must come from the local level. I'd like to share with you the thoughtful comments we received, edited for length.

Craig Settles, head of Successful.com: "Part 2 of my report next week includes in-depth interviews with 8 people at the local level who are heading up broadband-related projects to impact economic development. You'll see there's a heck of a lot of details they constantly must resolve to convert this policy talk into activities that get people jobs and improve local businesses. If the Federal government and local governments don't learn this crucial lesson, and all they do is throw money and rhetoric at broadband infrastructure, there's going to be more failure than not among the people they're trying to help. Equally important, local private sectors and governments must take the lead in defining national broadband strategy, NOT the telcos. In any smart technology deployment, the customer defines their needs and manages implementation. The vendor responds to the need and ideally is a partner in the process, but not one who dictates to the customer. So it should be if you want to implement broadband projects that truly help communities."

Anonymous: "I agree that local control is vital. Localities do not need the big telecoms to force them into a one-size-fits-all 'solution.' Thus far, pure market forces have left rural and low-income areas as isolated cul-de-sacs off the main information highway."

Ernie Braganza: "Be sure to touch base with the folks in Bristol, Va. (BVUB) and Lebanon, Va. (CGI, Inc.). Local public/private partnerships to bring in broadband have made remarkable changes in the economy. There is still a lot of work to do to get homes connected, but at least we are getting the fiber out here that will allow future last-mile solutions (WiMAX, WiFi, etc.)."

Anonymous: "Broadband and other advanced communications policies and programs will definitely benefit from local control, but that means local officials must be actively engaged. Localized efforts greatly benefit from connections between sectors rather than isolating them in "verticals." Collaboration between business, education, healthcare, industry, local government, public safety, etc., aggregates demand, allows knowledge and other resource sharing, pushes costs down, and maximizes benefits. In contrast, federal programs and providers isolate the sectors undermining opportunity for synergy."

Anonymous: "It is imperative that newer broadband wireless infrastructures for our communities and cities remain localized. There are several operating and revenue models that can be incorporated by involving local businesses and key stakeholders that would benefit investors as well as local business, education, local governments, public safety, digital inclusion and literacy thus providing for much needed economic stimulus."

Thanks to those who expressed their opinions. I'd like to hear from more people about this issue and especially learn about the public/private partnerships that are already successful in bringing broadband to the masses and the impact they are having on the community and economy. They would make interesting case studies.--Lynnette

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