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Google, Cisco, Other Tech Titans Call for National Broadband Strategy

It's time for the U.S. to step up to the broadband plate. A coalition of companies that includes Google, Cisco, AT&T and Verizon, among others, has sent an open letter (PDF), asking President-elect Obama and Congress to make broadband deployment a high priority for 2009, according to a CNET report.

The group - which also includes public interest groups and other organizations - has issued a warning that the United States risks losing its global leadership position if our broadband networks aren't strong enough to enable the American people, businesses, and public and private institutions "to take full advantage of emerging and future bandwidth-intensive and quality-sensitive applications." In its letter to Washington, the group writes:

Many nations have implemented national strategies that treat advanced communications networks as strategic infrastructure, and they are using a variety of policies and practices to promote broadband deployment and adoption. These include tax incentives, low-interest loans, subsidies, public-private partnerships, competition policy, and many other forms of direct and indirect support by all levels of government. Such measures have led to increased broadband availability, faster speeds, lower prices, and high adoption rates. The United States should not ignore successful policies and practices from other countries, as it pursues a National Broadband Strategy that is aligned with our own unique history, culture, geography, and economy.
As part of its initial call-to-action, the group has laid out several goals, including:
  • Every American home, business, and public and private institution should have access to affordable high-speed broadband connections to the Internet.
  • Access to the Internet should, to the maximum feasible extent, be open to all users, service providers, content providers, and application providers.
  • Network operators must have the right to manage their networks responsibly, pursuant to clear and workable guidelines and standards.
  • The Internet and broadband marketplace should be as competitive as reasonably possible.
  • U.S. broadband networks should provide Americans with the network performance, capacity, and connections they need to compete successfully in the global marketplace.
It's good to see so many groups band together on this cause. I've said many times that the attitude toward technology and Silicon Valley innovation from Washington has been too dismissive for too long. (Video) With President-elect Obama heading into office, there's hope that some of the change he's talked about will include tech. At the same time, Obama has talked about an investment in American infrastructure as a means of creating jobs and bringing the country out of the recession. This may not be infrastructure in the form of railroads or highways that were built in previous generations - but there's no reason it shouldn't be treated with the same type of respect.

The coalition said it plans to host an event in the Spring to offer more specific policy recommendations to President Obama, Congress and the American people. Here's hoping that our leaders in Washington will be educated, informed and prepared to engage with the group and act on its suggestions.

Sam Diaz is a senior editor at ZDNet. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

Credit: ZDNet