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Coleman: It’s Time for Government to Get Out of the Way of the Broadband Revolution

With many Americans out of work and frustrated with gridlock in Washington, we should be able to all agree that the federal government needs to move aside and let America do what America does best — create, innovate and build the technology that will move us, as a nation, into a more prosperous future.

One of the most significant obstacles to America’s economic growth is the absence of adequate access to technology — specifically, a broadband network that can be the platform to restoring America’s global economic dominance.

Without reliable access to broadband and its innovative applications for businesses large and small, America loses the ability to compete and we fall further behind our competitors in the global marketplace.

Federal Communications Commission Chief Julius Genachowski underscored this recently in a blog post: “The broadband divide means economic opportunities denied for ordinary consumers who lack broadband access; educational opportunities diminished; health care access reduced; and public safety compromised.”

Despite this reality, there remains a disconnect in Washington as to what it means to create a seamless broadband network that can connect technology to opportunity and economic growth and prosperity.

An example of that disconnect is the current battle that a private company, LightSquared, continues to wage with the federal government bureaucracy in its efforts to put its private, nongovernment capital into the marketplace to implement a wireless, broadband technology that can connect everyone in America.

When I joined the LightSquared team, I immediately understood that the promise of LightSquared’s offering to the marketplace is profound. Instead of tackling these problems through government spending programs, this $10 billion private investment has the ability to provide our country with the technology needed to increase our competitive advantage. That technology is a wireless, broadband network that can do more to connect America than any amount of public tax dollars has been able to accomplish. You don’t have to know who LightSquared is to admit that private investment, not taxpayer dollars, is the key to keeping America competitive.

Let’s be clear: The FCC has indicated a desire to aggressively expand the reach of broadband, particularly in rural areas. But, as with far too many issues in D.C., the small “p” politics of the issue is destroying the positive, big “P” of good public policy for America.

Some who have worried about LightSquared’s new network have voiced credible concerns about potential interference with GPS signals. Others have raised the specter of jeopardizing our defense systems. I will be the first to say that we need a more reliable GPS system; but if GPS is so vulnerable that we can’t bring new wireless technology to the marketplace, we have bigger problems, such as other countries developing the technology before us and using it to disrupt our national defense systems.

The bottom line is America must have a reliable GPS system, and sound science — not special-interest politics — needs to guide us through resolving these concerns and moving forward with the innovation.

For the policymakers in D.C. wrestling with a $15 trillion national debt and a deficit of nearly $1.6 trillion, it ought to make absolute sense that anytime the private sector is willing to put its money into America’s future, if backed by sound science, we ought to embrace it.

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