Feature Article
Broadband and the Failing Economy

October 1, 2001
By Scott Lewis

I was recently laid off. Although I was not employed by a dot com company (I was employed by an insurance company that was over 75 years old), I felt the pain of the failing the economy. Some people have asked me what can the government do to get the economy going. Although I am no economist... I am an opinionated American, so I will give it a shot.

Personally I think the government needs to look at history for an idea. As a car nut I know a little about automotive history. After WWII when all those G.I.s came back from the war, the government poured a ton of money into the highway system. Maybe some of you have heard the term "post war cars." This refers to the type of cars Detroit put out after the war in direct response to the highway system that the government built. Prior to WWII most cars would not be capable of a cross country drive.

But the automotive industry step up to the challenge once the highway system we enjoy today was laid out. A lot of other industries gain ground from this. Road side restaurants and tourism skyrocketed. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but suffice it to say our entire culture was changed, not just the economy.

I thin the information super highway could use the same kind of infusion. The government should be pushing telephone and cable companies to help push broadband DSL & Cable Modem service to the masses. I know people that can't get it when they want it. Personal experience tells me that many people would get it if they could get it... even at today's high prices.

My in-laws are a perfect example. We have been living with them for a couple of months and they have been spoiled by the DSL service we had moved over here. They like it so much that they are willing to pay $40 a month for it. This is from two retired people living on fixed incomes. Image how many other people would be willing to pay for broadband service if they had a two month free taste. Also image how many people would want it if it only cost $20 a month.

The government has the ability to put billions into the Internet infrastructure as well as provide incentives to companies to accelerate their efforts to roll out broadband service. If everyone that had dial-up service could get broadband for the same price it would create a huge incentive for companies to build web sites to cater to broadband customers.

Most of the companies that built broadband sites did so because they assumed people would come to their sites.. but not enough people can get broadband or want to pay the high price. If they did then maybe many of those companies would still be in business today. Also, if everyone had broadband you would see people buying more new computers. I know that a new computer is not going to help a DSL connection. But once people get addicted to the speed of broadband they will start to become impatient with the speed of the computer again.


If you are wondering what the government can do to just start the economy, forget about a tax refund that would have to come from cutting some programs. Instead take that money and subsidize broadband access and force the telcos and cable companies to get with the program and get serious about rolling it out.