recommended reading

Obama adviser looks at U.S.-built broadband network

A senior adviser to President Obama is touting the idea of spending tens of billions of dollars in public funds to build a nationwide, state-of-the-art broadband network featuring speeds 100 times faster than today's technology.

While there has been no formal Obama administration commitment to such infrastructure investment, Susan Crawford, special assistant to the president for science, technology and innovation policy, has said she is "personally intrigued" by an ambitious plan by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

His plan proposes a public-private partnership that would invest up to $33 billion over eight years to build and operate a fiber-optic broadband network reaching 90 percent of homes and workplaces. Wireless and satellite technology would be used to reach the remaining 10 percent in the outback.

Obama and congressional Democrats have backed a $7.2 billion cash infusion to stimulate domestic broadband investment as part of this year's economic stimulus package, but experts have acknowledged that gaps in availability and bandwidth will remain, with pockets of the United States left with no service or antiquated technology.

Proponents of Australia's program argue that the government-subsidized network promises myriad opportunities for online businesses and enhancements to energy efficiency, media distribution and public safety.

A chief concern here is that a public broadband network would be costly -- upward of $430 billion. While U.S. consumers would benefit from the increased competition and lower monthly rates, they would foot the bill through tax dollars.

"I think it's a pipe dream at this point," said a telecommunications industry source, who added, "Good luck finding the money in this fiscal environment."

Other industry sources also cautioned that a government-subsidized network might dissuade private sector investment, leaving Americans with fewer options down the road. "You can't just build it and you're done," one critic cautioned, emphasizing the government would have to spend billions on upgrades and would be saddled with customer service responsibilities. "The government's continually going to have this 'white whale' it's going to have to keep pouring money into."

As the FCC prepares a national broadband strategy to be presented to Congress by Feb. 17, there's already speculation that the agency -- at the prodding of the White House -- will give serious thought to adapting Australia's model for the United States.

Crawford, a member of Obama's National Economic Council, raised eyebrows when she discussed Australia's plan at a policy forum in April.

"Simply put, a digital economy requires fiber, and Australia is making the determination that for that to work it will require a utility approach," Crawford said, noting that Singapore is making a similar investment and Britain and the Netherlands are exploring the concept.

"These governments understand that a wholesale network can deliver massive social and economic benefits," she said, referring to capacity that would be made available to carriers at reduced rates.

Threatwatch Alert

Software vulnerability

Malware Has a New Hiding Place: Subtitles

See threatwatch report

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

    Download
  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.