I'm not going to be in the audience and have a chance to ask the candidates a question, but if I were here's what I'd ask: "Mr. President [or Senator Kerry], what do you think should be done to speed up the availability of high-speed broadband services, including broadband that will be 10 or 20 times faster than today's speeds."
I know what they say on their websites, but I'd like to hear their answers. Senator Kerry's campaign site highlights investment tax credits as his primary broadband initiative, while President Bush emphasizes--and I wish he had done so much earlier in his term--removal of unnecessary regulatory burdens. In his April speech on broadband and other matters, the President stated: "Broadband is going to spread because it's going to make sense for private sector companies to spread it as long as the regulatory burden is reduced--in other words, so long as policy at the government level encourages people to invest, not discourages investment." The Republican platform declares: "High-speed Internet access should not be governed by regulations established decades ago for the telephone."
President Bush has it right. What is needed are not new tax credits; just the elimination of legacy regulations established in a narrowband world in which the marketplace environment was not nearly as competitive and dynamic as today's.
Wouldn't it be great if President Bush also responded by saying: "And I think the folks over at the FCC ought to--finally and definitively and without equivocation--rule that broadband services, whether provided by telephones comapnies, cable operators, wireless comapnies, or whatever, do not need to be unbundled and shared. I need the help of those FCC folks to keep investment and new jobs growing."
He'd be right about the new jobs and overall boost to the economy. For just the latest affirmation on this point, see study released yesterday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Sending the Right Signals: Promoting Competition Through Telecommunications Reform. The new report estimates that the elimination of telecom regulations, especially the UNE network-sharing rules, can lead to $58 billion in new investment over the next 5 years, an increase in GDP of $167 bilion over 5 years, and the creation of 212,000 new jobs. For another, see Senator Kerry's own web site where he says that the availability of ubiquitous broadband would generate 1.2 million new jobs.
If you are going to be in the audience at tommorrow night's debate, and get a chance to ask a question, maybe you will ask mine. If not, when the focus turns to the economy, it would be a pretty good debating point for the President to up and say on his own: "I sure hope for the sake of keeping the economy moving the FCC gets out that ruling out soon that says broadband services don't have to be shared. I remember back in December 2000 at the PFF Telecommunications Reform Conference when Michael Powell, the fine man who I appointed to be FCC chairman the day after I was sworn in, said we needed new regulatory paradigms and we need them on Internet time. Let's get on with it."