See my new commentary on the new $7.2 billion broadband program in the Federal stimulus bill. I conclude that if we’re going to spend taxpayer money at all, we should take advantage of local knowledge:
Many states have already pinpointed the areas most in need of broadband infrastructure. Local companies and entrepreneurs are likely to best know where broadband needs to be deployed – and to aggressively deliver it with the most appropriate, cost-effective technology that meets the needs of the particular market. Using the states as smart conduits is also likely to get the money to network builders more quickly.
After falling seriously behind foreign nations in broadband and in our favored measure of “bandwidth-per-capita” in the early 2000s, the U.S. got its act together and is now on the right path. In the last decade, total U.S. broadband lines grew from around 5 million to over 120 million, while residential broadband grew from under 5 million to 75 million. By far the most important broadband policy point is not to discourage or distort the annual $60+ billion that private companies already invest.