Internet Policy Advice Rolls in for Obama

From a national broadband policy to open government proposals to federal financial incentives, President-elect Barack Obama is being swamped with high-tech ideas for his new administration. Getting Americans connected to the Internet, though, remains almost everyone's top IT priority.

In the immediate days after the election of Barack Obama, technology leaders, academicians and consumer groups can't seem to hold enough meetings, roundtables, Web seminars and conference calls to push their ideas to the administration in waiting.

If there is one area of universal agreement among the groups, it is that high-speed Internet connections for Americans should be a top technological priority for Obama. President Bush, of course, said the same thing in 2004, setting a national goal of affordable broadband access for all Americans by 2007.

It didn't happen. Bush put his faith in the free market, but-for whatever reason-the United States tumbled to the middle of the pack among industrialized nations in broadband penetration, falling behind Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, Korea, Finland, Luxembourg, Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France and Germany.

"If you look overseas, most of the world's leading nations have half a dozen or more companies offering a similar broadband product," Ben Scott, policy director at Free Press, said Dec. 2 at a Capitol Hill tech conference. "They're competing on price. They're competing on speed. They're competing on the attractiveness of the services they offer on top of their broadband package."

In the United States, approximately 99 percent of all broadband connections come from telephone and cable companies offering either DSL or cable modem service. Scott noted that "competitor" nations have worked to build a broadband infrastructure that is available to multiple providers.

Will the next president take technology seriously? Click here to read about Obama's "innovation team."

Cisco Systems, Google, Microsoft, Intel and a host of other tech companies, trade groups and public policy organizations believe a national broadband policy is critical to America's economic vitality, educational opportunity, public safety, energy efficiency, environmental stability and global competitiveness.

"Without high-quality, reliable and accessible broadband that reaches every part of our nation, we will miss out on the robust opportunities of economic growth, job creation, collaboration and social benefits delivered by Web 3.0," said Jeff Campbell, senior director of Technology and Trade Policy for Cisco. "Implementing a national broadband strategy must be a priority for the new administration and the 111th Congress."