Telecom Timeout

Feb 24 2009   10:17PM GMT

Broadband stimulus: A universal service?

Kate Gerwig Kate Gerwig Profile: Kate Gerwig

Like the housing bailout, the telecom industry has its very own hot-head issue. It’s a little like crazy radio, but the people taking up the airwaves are talking about the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds earmarked to help build out infrastructure for rural and underserved areas. Economists at a recent American Enterprise Institute seminar in Washington D.C., batted it back and forth: Are rural residents deserving of broadband? And would they even know what to do with it if they had it?

Drawing the most fire, former FCC economist Michael Katz bashed rural life to the extent that it got the attention of NPR’s well-modulated Morning Edition. And New York Times blogger Saul Hansel weighed in with his opinions on various economists’ views.

With its Broadband Connection Highs and Lows Across Rural America, The Daily Yonder website is keeping it rural, and offered what appears to be the most knowledgeable analysis of broadband in exurban areas, complete with a map of which counties have the highest broadband concentration. We’ll have plenty of time to point fingers on this one, but even I couldn’t help but comment given my rural background. Any type of country-wide infrastructure buildout has had some kind of government help, and in my view, this is the next universal service.

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