Spend on broadband not crumbling concrete, says California congressman

9 January 2017 by Steve Blum
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Issa on home turf.

Representative Darrell Issa (R – San Diego) embraced Donald Trump’s plan to pump a lot of federal money into infrastructure during a CES panel discussion in Las Vegas this weekend, and broadband is at the top of his shopping list. If the federal government is going to spend a trillion dollars again, Issa thinks it should be forward looking projects that get funded, and not repair jobs left over from the last century.

The problem with the Obama administration’s stimulus program, Issa said, was that it focused on fixing things like crumbling bridges that state and local governments ignored, until the federal government asked for shovel ready projects

What’s shovel ready right now is the smart highway. What’s shovel ready right now is connecting our world better and faster, in which the federal government can participate in that – in spectrum allocation, in some dollars, but also in systems that help that get rolled out faster. The federal government, in a sense, has an exclusive license on the Interstate systems. We can preempt everything to make things happen better, quicker, faster, and if we spend and invest a trillion dollars in partnerships, in that, then suddenly we have a much more connected world…

The investment this time is different. It’s not about a crumbling piece of concrete that a city or county or state should have maintained. It’s about where does the federal government take us to the next level, so that our country is, in fact, headed in a way that the superhighway’s of 70 years ago made us competitive, now the superhighway is, if you will, electronic.

Issa was preaching to the choir at CES. Before running for congress, he was CEO of a tech company and served as chair of the Consumer Electronics Association – now the Consumer Technology Association, so his enthusiasm for broadband spending comes naturally. It faces two hurdles, though. Trump’s stated infrastructure priority is building “the roads, highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, and railways of tomorrow” – no mention of broadband – and there’s deep skepticism about big spending programs of any kind among Issa’s fellow republicans.