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Citizens Against Public Waste Call Broadband a Luxury Not a Necessity

in Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, July 29, 2010 – Speaking in a webcast by the Broadband Policy Series this afternoon, David Williams of Citizens Against Public Waste said that there “wouldn’t be any circumstances in which government should step in” where community broadband is concerned. According to Williams, even when local governments step in, there tends to be a centralizing process by which one locality wants the same services as another locality, thus evolving the process to a Federal level.

“You get that spiraling ladder where everyone wants what everyone else has,” Williams said.

Williams also directly assailed one of the assumptions underlying the National Broadband Plan – namely, that broadband was required as a necessity in the modern economy. “Broadband is not a utility. It is a luxury, it is not a necessity for towns or households,” Williams said. “I would absolutely disagree [with the assessment of the National Broadband Plan].”

The comments, which came after a brief interview with Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), sparked a heated discussion among the panelists, most of whom disagreed with Williams’ position on universal access.

“The notion that broadband isn’t a necessity is not going to work anymore,” said Harold DePriest of Chattanooga Electric PoweR Board. “If we’re going to compete with the world, broadband is going to have to be a utility.”

Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance agreed. “I would echo the comments about this being a necessity. We can stipulate that there are people who do not need broadband. There are probably people who’d be fine without households. But for a community to succeed in this time, they need broadband. From a community perspective, it’s absolutely a necessity.”

Mitchell also dismissed concerns about public sector community broadband providers crowding out private sector competition. “How many millions of dollars have libraries robbed Borders and Barnes and Noble?” Mitchell asked.

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