Ask a good question

34318_large_Obama_on_the_Computer_WideDon’t you just love a great question? My sister Amy asks the most provocative questions – ones that make you think deeply and find new ideas in yourself…. like, “would you rather change the past or predict the future?”

President Obama’s question to federal agencies in March of this year may be less provocative but the answers from agencies will be more impactful.

On March 23, 2015 President Obama asked all federal agencies of the U.S. government to ‘use all available and appropriate authorities’ to encourage further investment in broadband networks, to address regulatory barriers to broadband deployment and to promote the adoption and meaningful use of broadband technology.

The multi-agency response to the Presidential Memorandum was delivered to the White House last week and the White House indicated that the formal report and recommendations will be announced on September 21st.

I am looking forward to hearing the agency answers. Why?

Because it was such a good question – a question that should be asked at every level of government across America. In providing context for the charge to agencies, the President said:

‘Access to high-speed broadband is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity for American families, businesses, and consumers. Affordable, reliable access to high-speed broadband is critical to U.S. economic growth and competitiveness.  High-speed broadband enables Americans to use the Internet in new ways, expands access to health services and education, increases the productivity of businesses, and drives innovation throughout the digital ecosystem.’

Broadband access and adoption can streamline and support nearly every aspect of government. The federal government can use ‘use all available and appropriate authorities’ to make it easier for providers and other entities to expand broadband networks and help the 15-25% of people without broadband access get online and get to work… find better healthcare… continue to learn… start businesses… connect with families and friends… and do a myriad of things that we do online today.

So therein lies another difference between the President and my sister Amy. When she asks a question, she can’t require that we “use all available and appropriate authorities” to respond. States can. Cities can. Tribes can. Every government can do more to support broadband deployment, competition and adoption.

To answer Amy’s question, I would rather predict the future than change the past. I predict a future where more local leaders ask good questions. While I look forward to hearing what federal agencies will do to improve broadband across the country, I am even more excited about the opportunities for states, cities, tribes, and municipalities to ask good questions and use all available and appropriate authority to use broadband to connect people and communities and serve the public good.

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