06/08/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

National Broadband Policy Will Affect Healthcare, Education, and Competitiveness

The FCC is holding a comment period for input as to what the nation's broadband policy should be. Before you let yourself skip this post, give me a minute.

It's important to weigh in because the wrong policy can make the Internet inaccessible or unaffordable for large numbers of people in the US, and can derail our economic future as a country. We are already far behind other countries in allowing affordable broadband access to citizens, and now the stimulus funds can be used for good or ill to help us make up for lost time. We have until June 8th to add our input to the debate.

I'm trying very hard to figure out how to comment on the proposed national broadband policy. There are so many moving parts to this puzzle that I don't know where to begin. But here are a few questions for the experts:

1) What constitutes true broadband? 768kbs is what the proposal says. Surely that's not enough for video, music, education, gaming, X-rays.

2) And what about the difference between upstream and down? Now that we're in Web 2.0 or its successor, people aren't just downloading, they are uploading.

3) Should it be wired or wireless?

4) Who should pay for it? And how much? Public? Private?

5) And who pays for the schools? The libraries? The Indian reservations? The thinly populated areas not served by cable?

6) Do we need a rural broadband project like the Rural Electrification Project? If so, is broadband a public utility? Do we regulate it like electric utilities?

7) Should certain traffic pay more and be prioritized, like commuters on toll roads?

The debate on all of this started back in 1991 when Al Gore invented the internet, or at least the Information Superhighway, which in America looks more like the Information Back Alley compared to anywhere in Asia or Europe, where they have fast fiber to the curb. We have whatever the major carriers choose to invest in. In certain parts of the country there's no broadband, and in others there's no choice of provider.

We should fix this, before we fall even further behind the rest of the world. You should see Singapore, for example. Or Tokyo.

The FCC is asking for our comments, and there's a nifty spot called Comment Express where you can even upload a white paper on the subject. Don't forget to add the Docket #09-51 to your comment.

Before you comment, you might want to read what Debi Jones (aka Mobile Jones) has written or what Ars Technica has to say. They've been studying this stuff.

It's not just a question of net neutrality, as if anyone understands what that means. It's a question of costs, priorities, and national goals.If you don't take an interest. Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner will determine your future. Don't complain that you have no voice if you don't take the time. Small numbers of passionate people can move mountains.