January 15th, 2009

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My take on the $6 B broadband stimulus, or "Herring! Yummers!"

Absolutely the right move. As I explain in this blog post:

There's an old Jewish joke about how a Frenchman, a Pole, and Jew saved Napoleon's life. Napoleon asks what they want as a reward. The Frenchman says his family were aristocrats before the revolution and he wants his family lands restored. “Granted,” says the Emperor. The Pole says he wants Poland liberated and her pre-partition borders restored. “Granted,” says Napoleon. The Jew says: “I want a real nice piece of herring.”

Napoleon stares, turns in disgust to one of his attendants, and says “get this man a nice piece of herring from the kitchen and then get him out of my sight.”

The Frenchman and the Pole turn to the Jew and laugh “You could have asked for anything! You idiot, that's the Emperor of France! And you asked for a nice piece of herring!”

“Ha,” answered the Jew. “You think you're so smart? I'm actually gonna get my herring.”

Any effort to get something on order of $100 billion for broadband would have been devoured by incumbents and special interests and far too unwieldy to administer. But targeted grants can do a lot of good. The nirvana network will not descend on us like manna from Heaven. We will need to build it ourselves. Meanwhile, lets go make sure the incumbents and the parasites don't steal our herring.