Obama aide: Full broadband plan not in stimulus

The Obama administration will continue to develop an Internet agenda, after initial funds are allocated to broadband in the stimulus package, Blair Levin says.

WASHINGTON--Don't expect to find a comprehensive national broadband policy in the so-called economic stimulus package that President-elect Barack Obama hopes to sign in his first days in office, Blair Levin, a top technology adviser for Obama, said Wednesday.

While funds for broadband deployment will be a part of the stimulus package, Blair cautioned groups interested in seeing more federal investment in broadband from expecting too much right away.

"Don't confuse a piece of the puzzle with the puzzle," Blair said at the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee's State of the Net Conference here.

However, Blair said the Obama administration's broadband agenda will not be ignored after the stimulus package is passed.

Blair didn't say how the so-called stimulus package or broadband legislation will be paid for, but the obvious choices are for the Treasury to borrow more money, raise taxes, or reduce spending in other areas (probably the least likely of the three possibilities).

The very stimulus package itself will make clear the administration's commitment to Internet technologies, he said.

"Six months from now, when you look at the way the government will allow people to see what's going on with the economic recovery and you compare it with TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program), you'll see the kind of difference in the way government is being run in a very important way," Levin said.

He cited the transition team's Change.gov site as an example of the way Obama is already making government more transparent.

Other government leaders from the local and international level who made opening remarks at the conference echoed Blair's sentiment that government bureaucracies need to embrace modern technologies.

The commonwealth of Virginia is undertaking a variety of initiatives to improve aspects of governance in areas like health care and education, said Aneesh Chopra, Virginia's secretary of technology.

On February 23, the commonwealth will debut the Virginia physics "flexbook," Chopra said--Web-based instructional materials that cover areas of physics in which Virginia's traditional curriculum is lacking.

The commonwealth partnered with the nonprofit CK-12 Foundation to provide an open-source platform on which new content can be quickly published. Virginia officials solicited contributions to the text from around the country. The contributions were subject to a series of academic reviews.

"Virginia will have its first physics flexbook for teachers to rip, mix, and burn and to incorporate into their educational coursework," Chopra said.

He said the process was faster than the traditional means of changing coursework, and it was one example of how a robust information technology infrastructure was helping the government better serve people.

"You can make information more accessible, collaborate more, and people can do more to hold their elected officials more accountable," Chopra said.

 

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