Does the U.S. government need to more aggressively fund the expansion of broadband? On July 19, a panel of experts gathered at the New America Foundation to discuss New Zealand's ambitious new broadband rollout and the lessons it might offer about broadband expansion here. Although New Zealand shares with the U.S. a similar goal of bringing ultrafast internet to three-quarters of its citizens, the government there is aggressively subsidizing installation of nearly 16,000 miles of new fiber optics, unlike the U.S. plan to rely primarily on private investment.
Graham Mitchell, chief executive officer of Crown Fibre Holdings, the government-owned company overseeing the fiber expansion, kicked off the event by outlining the rationale and complex economics behind the New Zealand plan. Joanne Hovis, president of Columbia Telecommunications Corporation; Ben Lennett, senior policy analyst at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative; and Blair Levin, a communications and society fellow at the Aspen Institute, then debated the scheme's implications. Questions about whether cable could satisfy broadband needs, what people might be able to do with ultrafast connections, and whether increasing speeds are clashing with decreasing data allowances were prominent amidst the wide-ranging discussion, which was moderated by Knight Media Policy Fellow Tom Glaisyer .