WASHINGTON, June 10, 2010 – At today’s Pike and Fischer Broadband Policy Summit Edward Lazarus, Chief of Staff for the Federal Communications Commission, was the first keynote speaker. Using electricity as an analogous system to broadband he spoke about the need for government action to expand adoption and availability. Lazarus invoked the creation of the Rural Electrification Agency as a possible model for the expansion of broadband.
Broadband like electricity requires large amounts of investment and large scale adoption prior to becoming a useful service.
Lazarus compared the initial hesitancy of the farmers to use electricity to today’s hesitancy to accept rural broadband. Farmers who initially had electricity, did not use it to its full potential, and thus because they saw the cost of it without realizing the benefits, they were unwilling to support it.
The successful fusion of the private sector and government is what caused the spread of electricity. Many applications for electricity invented by the private sector not only made life easier for farmers, but also fostered the invention of new technology like the assembly line.
Lazarus admitted that electrifying rural America was difficult and expensive. The Rural Electrification Agency had to spend a lot of money and man-hours on running electric lines across the country. However, the good that it did from fostering higher education levels to the spread of McDonalds made up for the initial costs.
He then went on to expound on the benefits of broadband including the ability to improve healthcare through wireless sensors and video observation; can increase government transparency by allowing meetings to be done via videoconferencing allowing everyone to participate; to improve education through e-textbooks and remote classrooms; to make homes more energy efficient and “smart.”
“Today we must move past chatter to the achievable change,” said Lazarus. His hopes were that this summit, with its differing points of view and opinions, would be a step toward the implementation of broadband.