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Obama Tech Adviser Says More to Come on Broadband Push

A tech adviser to President Obama said today that $7.2 billion in stimulus funds to bring broadband lines to rural areas is just the start of the administration's plan to bring high-speed Internet to the entire nation.

Alec Ross, a member of Obama's Technology, Innovation and Government Reform Team, said at the Mobile Learning Conference in Washington that the new administration has called on the Federal Communications Commission to create within one year a comprehensive strategy for broadband Internet.

The stimulus "is not the puzzle but just a piece of the puzzle," Ross said.

Obama has promised to bring broadband Internet access to remote areas that aren't connected to the Web today. It is part of his strategy to create jobs and bring "21st century" economies to rural and low-income areas.

Yet to understand Obama's vision for technology, one need not look beyond broadband policy, Ross said. The president sees access to the Web as as a key component of modernizing healthcare records, reforming education, and helping reduce global warming.

About $19 billion in stimulus funds will go to health information technology, which would digitize medical records, for example.

"Clearly we're talking about an administration that sees health info-technology not as a vertical issue," Ross said.

Ross, a co-founder of non-profit OneEconomy.com, which brings technology to low-income areas, was echoing comments made earlier in the week by another technology adviser to Obama, Blair Levin. The administration is trying to stem concerns that the $7.2 billion stimulus funds allotted for broadband won't be enough to reverse the nation's decline in international rankings for broadband access. The U.S. ranks about 16th in access to high-speed Internet.

Instead of drawing up a program from scratch, the administration wanted to use existing programs at the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education to fund the deployment of high-speed networks to rural and other underserved areas.

Some public interest groups, however, have questioned whether having multiple agencies oversee broadband will create inefficiencies.

By Cecilia Kang  |  February 18, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
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Do really Obama`s advisers believe they could provide Health Care services through the Internet where nobody can guarantee the service delivery, privacy or security ? Before to start the mass investment in universal broadband, the US government should be consider the creation of National Digital-Service Network with guarantee service delivery, regulated services and authorized users. Here are the details: http://www.slideshare.net/ishmelev/national-service-network

Posted by: sporitus | February 18, 2009 3:07 PM

The concern about multiple agencies overseeing broadband is misplaced. The U.S. doesn't have too many agencies overseeing broadband strategy, but too few that actually drive development of it. The U.S. ranked 19th in broadband penetration according to the 2008 OECD study; broadband investment can do little but improve that weak ranking.

Emphasis on rural broadband and delivery of health care over the network is exactly where money should be spent, if for no other reason than the fact that few alternatives exist. Yes, challenges in securing health care records on the network exist. But when a person in upstate Maine has a choice of accepting medical advice over the Internet and driving two hours for treatment of a chronic condition, the benefits delivered may outweigh the risks.

Finally, we should remember President Obama's challenge to all of us to remake this nation for our new century. Yankee Group surveys show that 40 percent of U.S. citizens aren’t very interested in technology, yet many would use it if they knew how. At the same time, countless high school and college students live and breathe technology and are eager to answer your call to service. A national Community Service Geek Squad could help seniors and other technology-challenged communities become more connected with society while providing experience to young people at the same time.

The challenge we face is not whether we are using networks in the right way, but whether we have a national strategy to apply this technology to the nation's problems. This isn't a matter of money, but a matter of will. The $7 billion in the stimulus package is a start, but it will take all of us to apply that money in intelligent and innovative ways.

Yankee Group has put together an open letter to President Obama listing 10 ways in which we can improve our nation with wired and wireless technology without huge new program investments. That letter is publicly available at http://yankeegroup.com/research/downloads/Memo_to_President_Obama.pdf . The challenge to all of us is to stop arguing about what the right way to begin is, but to make the first steps and learn as we go. After all, all we have to lose is 19th place in the world.


Posted by: cdhowe | February 18, 2009 5:18 PM

I think we need to be a bit clearer about just what's meant by the notion of "delivering" medical care over the Internet.

I live in Bangkok, and a friend of mine is affiliated with a local hospital group. Though it's not his main job, part of what he's doing is advising on the hospital group's wish to have their own hospitals linked to each other, particularly since each tends to excel in areas others aren't as strong in. The idea is a patient shows up and the doctor at hospital A would like a real-time second opinion from an expert at hospital B, he can transmit the lot -- blood and urine tests, X-rays, etc. -- that's he's already got on hand so the expert at B can look the results over and give advice.

This is a good idea. On a much lower-tech level, there are projects in several Third World countries already up and running doing something similar, but with cellular and satellite phones. The use can be as simple as a med tech, such as an EMT, using a phone to call an expert and describe a patient's symptoms and receive advice on how to proceed up to carrying portable medical equipment, such as an X-ray machine, modified to connect to the cellular/satellite phone so the data can be transmitted now. From media reports I've read, I'd say those projects are meeting with resounding success.

No, the amount budgeted is chump change, especially given the huge vastness of the country, but considering the countless numerous demands during this current economic meltdown, it's a decent start.

Another point: Google already has it's service through which you can upload you own medical records so if your away from your home doctor and get hurt or sick, you can let the new medicos have access to your records. I don't think the folks at Google would have set up that program if they didn't see a future in it.

Posted by: MekhongKurt1 | February 21, 2009 1:10 PM

There is no place this side of the arctic which is not served by private market broadband at about $60 per month or less. I am sitting 2500m up in the Front Range of Colorado and our $45 per month line of sight "Canopy" service is faster than the DSL I had when I left Lower Manhattan. Hughes satellite fills in wherever nothing else is available.

This is a fine example of the fattened pig politically connected market distorting redistribution which will only stimulate a longer and more painful re/depression.

Posted by: CoSyBob | February 21, 2009 2:22 PM

The ISP for South Dakota wants $60 a month for DSL and there Dial UP for $20 is very poor.

Posted by: MilfordD | February 23, 2009 9:35 AM

cosybob:
Short of buying satellite at 70 bucks a month I have no broadband option. I am told satellite is slow and undependable compared to DSL, or Fiber. I want Fast Broadband NOW! We have waited long enough and are tired of people like you getting in the way of progress, just because you dont need it. I live in midwest nowhere near the arctic. I can see a town from my front porch. The phone company has no incentive to provide good service when they sell bad service for a higher price. Government intervention is needed here. Everyone who wants DSL or Fiber should have that option. A tech support guy in Philipines made fun of America when he found out we cant get DSL where I live. What do you think that does for National security when the enemies find out how backward we are?

Posted by: waawaazaire | February 24, 2009 7:19 AM

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