According to some government types, the Bush administration does have a national broadband policy. But as Hurricane Katrina rudely pointed out this week, there's still no coherent, nation-wide first-responders communications network, a technology failure that must fall, in part, at the current leader's feet. As some of us have said before, it's appalling that nearly four years after the terrorist attacks on this country, our elected officials still haven't found the political will to build communications networks that could help make us all safer in times of need.
But instead of encouraging innovation in networking, the Bush administration's new leader of the FCC seems determined to affix old-school thinking to new technologies. From all we've read about the Katrina aftermath so far, none of the "standard" communications technologies -- landline phones, or police and fire radio systems -- were able to fully handle the crush of communications. Newer services, however, like text messaging, stayed up and running, in part due to their more efficient use of limited bandwidth.
Could we build nationwide emergency networks? Sure, probably for much less than the daily costs of fighting a war. Whether or not you agree with this administration's priorities is a question you should ask yourself soon -- before you're left with only a busy signal when the next storm hits.