Why Do We Need One?

Senator Durbin (D-IL) is going to host a series of online discussions about the lack of a national broadband strategy. I would ask the question from the other direction, do we need a national broadband strategy?

It strikes me that the U.S. technology industry has been most successful when the Federal government steps aside. Furthermore, it’s dangerous to just accept that "we are falling behind" in broadband when it’s hard to point to any concrete examples of where technology adoption rates are a cause for U.S. performance lagging.

For example, Durbin points to broadband adoption rates as why Americans don’t have access to the latest medical technology. I’d counter that access to online healthcare tools has been limited by regulatory demands for privacy (HIPAA) and a litigation environment that targets healthcare providers and causes them to avoid new technologies for fear of the risks they will be absorbing as a result. Therefore, I would suggest to Senator Durbin that Americans would get better and cheaper medical technology through tort reform rather than more broadband.

Lastly, as I pointed out last week, the idea that the U.S. is falling behind in broadband is not a simple matter of looking at per capita deployment.


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3 thoughts on Why Do We Need One?

  1. We have had and always will have a “national broadband strategy”, unfortunately it’s usually written by the industry incumbents. It seems to me the main point of this effort is to create broader awareness of the policies that get created and to have broader participation in forming new ones.

    And I agree that the best “strategy” in many cases is for the Federal government to step aside but that strategy is more likely to emerge from a grassroots effort than it is from the industry incumbents who usually write these policies and who often don’t want the government to step aside.

    And as for tort reform, legal costs amount to less than 1/3 of 1 percent of medical spending so I don’t see how that’s the big impediment to medical innovation.

  2. Brian,
    What’s your data source on that legal costs stat?

    You might want to tell Sen. Durbin about that national broadband strategy, he’s under the impression that we don’t have one. “Frankly, America does not have a national broadband strategy, and we are falling behind.”

    I generally agree with the notion that the public should be more aware of how legislation is drafted, which is one reason why I choose to write about it myself, however in that same breath I would point out that the FCC is chartered with regulating this industry, and as a consequence what objectives should be targeted. The FCC does take public comment, 25,000 alone on net neutrality I believe.

    If Congress is unhappy with the FCC’s direction, take it up with them because, quite frankly, I’m more concerned with Congress attempting to micromanage anything when they seem to do such a poor job of macro-managing.

    And it goes without saying that with this Congress shaping up to be one of most pork laden in history, I’d be skeptical if the public actually ended up having much of a voice. Mark Keam is Verizon’s lead lobbyist, and was also Senator Durbin’s longest serving Chief Counsel (and a FCC lawyer).

  3. I forget where I originally read that but I found a similar number quoted by Ezra Klein in an article in Slate.

    “After all, including legal fees, insurance costs, and payouts, the cost of the suits comes to less than one-half of 1 percent of health-care spending.”


    I think Durbin’s statement is mostly hyperbole but it’s the same kind of hyperbole Newt Gingrich uses on the same topic. In both cases I think the impact on public awareness is minor but better than nothing. And anything that makes the process more transparent is at least an incremental improvement.

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