May 29th, 2008

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Trying out an argument for why to push for universal broadband access

Let me float an economic development argument here.

I'm at the amazingly hyper cool international summit on community wireless. I occassionally refer to this as "Geekhalla" because it so reminds me of Valhalla. Here geeks gather to boast of their mighty deeds, display their prowess as tech or policy hackers, then spend the night drinking and partying.

One major aspect is on the right of interconnection as a human right under U.N. Article XIX. Larry Page of Google fame has been recently pushing this meme as well -- arguing that we need global free DSl-level broadband. (Page things this would be difficult to refuse. I pointed out to him that Burma is refusing free food. I don't think China or Iran will have trouble refusing free broadband.)

But I want to try to develop an economic argument, because like all big ideas this is getting crapped on as "why should we bring wifi to the world when people are starving?" Although to me this is the classic give fish/teach fish paradigm, it needs to be spelled out a bit. Happily, we have an obvious analog (if you will): cell phones.

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uplifiting and depressing

"When it comes to broadband adoption, we are a third world country." -- Nicole of One Economy.

Serbians are doing more with wireless mesh. Macedonians are investing in broadband infrastructure. They are reaping huge digital dividends. Including getting warring ethnic factions to bond over beer and bits.

_sigh_ Much work still to be done. But it will take us at least ten years to dig out of the current hole.

I get the society the neo-cons deserve.