Many of us had hoped that the stimulus package, with its focus on infrastructure projects, would also consider Internet pipes to be part of that infrastructure. Looks as though we may be disappointed. Reuters is reporting this afternoon that Obama aides are signaling that any improvement to existing infrastructures would have to come from “existing structures,” and that the stimulus will probably not include much money for such projects. According to the article:
Blair Levin, a top aide to Obama, said the broadband piece of the stimulus package must be “timely, targeted and temporary.”
I’m not entirely sure what “temporary” means to broadband, but it seems definitive – from this aide’s perspective, anyway – that the stimulus will not include broadband access.
There’s two ways of looking at that, and I’m not sure what the correct one is, if there is one. I tend to think of broadband systems as a modern extension of what we think of as infrastructure. The lack of good connection to the Internet is now probably as prohibitive to rural community job growth as roads and bridges have been in the past. But at the same time, roads and bridges belong to the states, towns, counties and people of the United States. Internet pipes belong to telecom companies. Thus funding huge expansion of Internet cabling is probably as much a sop for big corporations as it is anything else.
Ah, the constant tension between Internet Freedom and Internet Corporatism. It never ends.