Do Any Progressives Actually Know How to Spend $700 Billion? The Pentagon does. Wall Street does. But in fact, almost no one alive today remembers what it is like to spend huge sums of money to engage in non-corrupt domestic spending on behalf of socially just infrastructure. It's been a long time since the New Deal, or even Eisenhower's build-out of the highway system. Fortunately, there are some smart people thinking about it in the context of broadband. Progressive group Free Press just released a $40 billion plan that should over three years increase broadband speeds, lower prices, and expand access to everyone in the country. You can read the plan here.
The basic difference between this plan and the rest you'll read is that this one looks at the problem of broadband not just in terms of access or speed, but in terms of access, speed, and value. That is, it attempts to answer the question of why 40% of the country chooses not to buy broadband and exempts itself from the 21st century empowerment tool. The plan offers a mix of direct grants through existing government agencies that work (like the Universal Service Fund) and tax credits to encourage competition and the build out of 100MB plus networks that are open and neutral.
I'm still learning more about the plan, since spending lots of money is a problem I'm not used to thinking about. My sense though is that $38 billion over three years should be a floor, not an estimate. I've heard that $100-200B would upgrade our networks to South Korean speeds; we should be asking for that. I also would argue that the government should just build out the networks directly; with AT&T cutting capital spending, tax credits around depreciation are just not going to work as well as they would in non-deflationary environments. We need direct spending.
Still, this is a very positive step for progressives. It's actually a plan to spend lots of money wisely on something that will universalize access to information, and therefore, power.