Funding fiber: A simple solution

Submitted by acohill on Mon, 10/31/2005 - 10:02

There is much handwringing by local and state governments and the Feds about the "lack of money" to spend on broadband infrastructure. But it is pretty hard to take all that seriously. When politicians say, "There is no money for that," what they are really saying is that there are other things they would rather spend it on, and often for no good reason.

This report on the ever expanding oil well style gusher of gas taxes is a perfect example.

Governments are collecting more than $58 billion a year in gas taxes, and spending it on all kinds of dubious "transportation" projects, many of which are pork, pure and simple.

And communities are in on it. So it is really us that are making bad choices. A community, cannot, on the one hand, complain about disappearing jobs and lack of economic growth, and then on the other hand, encourage their elected reps to throw gas tax dollars at old economy projects or, worse, civic projects that have only a slight relationship to jobs and Knowledge Economy economic development.

Let's take 10% of our gas taxes and build fiber roads with the money. What we need is the equivalent, at the Federal level, of the Interstate highway system, where the Feds, in cooperation with the States, built interstate highways. We need that again. The natural role of the Federal government is interstate fiber highways, with exit ramps in major towns and cities. States and local governments can use their own 10% portion of gas taxes to build middle mile connections to local communities.

With that kind of middle mile and backbone infrastructure being built, the private sector will, in most places, be happy to provide local (first mile) connectivity.

$5 billion dollars, at an average of $10,000/mile for fiber construction (I'm taking advantage of volume to drive the average cost down), we could build 500,000 miles of backbone and middle mile fiber.

That's not just a start, it is what we need to do, and right now. And we would not even notice that little 10% shift in transportation spending...it's pocket change for state and Federal government.

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