Originally published: January 9, 2013
Last updated: January 9, 2013 - 9:50pm
[Commentary] Surrounded by next generation flexible displays and the next big tech toys at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show, former President Bill Clinton made this observation: South Korea is now number one in the world for computer download speeds, and the U.S. has fallen to number 15. “Our speeds are one-fourth of theirs, and we have fallen off the map,” Clinton said.
But just announced a plan to bring gigabit service to a dozen of its neighborhoods. Over 100,000 Seattle residents, as well as health care and educational institutions, will have access to world-leading speeds. Not only is the scale of Seattle’s effort impressive, the path it took — smart policies involving rights of way management and dark fiber — can be replicated by other communities that wish to control their own bandwidth destiny. Not every community has Seattle’s assets, particularly the strong information, communications, apps development economy and committed local leaders like Mayor McGinn. But Seattle has created a model that every community can follow in improving the environment for the private investment necessary to create a new generation of American broadband leadership. Mr. Friedman proposed a $20 billion fund to bring gigabit connectivity to 200 American cities, arguing that these networks would lead to “a ‘melt-up’ in the United States economy.” While, unfortunately in our view, such a program may not be in the realm of the politically achievable, ironically, it might be the actions of individual cities to catalyze such networks that leads to the kind of growth, debt reduction, and surplus that could enable the federal government to once again consider big programs to drive growth and American economic leadership. And this is the kind of policy innovation America deserves.
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