Business Week reported on Oct. 19 that, if elected, Barack Obama will likely appoint the first Cabinet-level chief technology officer because he feels the country “is not doing nearly enough to create jobs through technology.” The CTO’s job would be to expand broadband service to even more parts of the U.S., especially rural areas into which broadband doesn’t yet penetrate.
On his blog, Andrew Keen, author of Cult of the Amateur, responds to claims that expanding broadband is comparable to the building of railroads in the 1800s. Keen, who is often critical of the Web, writes:
[B]roadband provides a very different kind of transportation — one that allows individuals to escape their physical communities, to create virtual loyalties, to lose their identities in the narcissistic chaos of cyberspace.
I can’t agree wholly with Keen. Surely more broadband access in rural areas will not kill everything local. People will not revert to keyboard-potatoes, wasting away in front of their computer screens without ever visiting their local stores or picking up the local paper. Besides, the benefits of greater connectivity in currently unconnected areas — provided people aren’t just using the Internet for Ebay and celebrity news — will be too great to ignore.