by Mike Masnick
Tue, Dec 30th 2008 4:38pm
In general, it seems like a good thing that President-elect Obama has identified improved broadband as a key issue to focus on in the new administration. Broadband infrastructure is becoming critical infrastructure to any successfully functioning economy these days, and boosting our overall broadband is a necessity in trying to open up new economic possibilities. However, as with any government-sponsored program, when the government suggests it's ready to open its massive wallet on an initiative, special interests, incumbents and lobbyists see it as a way to get free money from the government. This is the problem in any sort of announced plan to give away money for infrastructure projects. It's not that the infrastructure isn't important. It's incredibly important. It's just that the system is often so corrupt that plenty of taxpayer money is likely to end up in the hands of those who need it the least, and who won't actually spend it to do much on infrastructure. We've seen broadband boondoggles like this in the past -- such as the Universal Service Fund, that really turned into a massive slush fund for telcos to charge more to customers without doing much of anything to provide universal service. I'm hoping that any plan this time around would be different -- and I've heard from multiple different people involved in the Obama transition team who insist that it really is different this time -- but some things are hard to change, and this sort of sucking at the government teat is hard to stop.
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