“Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail,” Mr. Obama said in his 2011 State of the Union address. “This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying — without the pat-down.”
But as Mr. Obama’s second term nears an end, some experts say the president’s words were a fantasy.
“The idea that we would have a high-speed system that 80 percent of Americans could access in that short period of time was unadulterated hype, and it didn’t take an expert to see through it,” said Kenneth Orski, the editor and publisher of an influential transportation newsletter who served in the Nixon and Ford administrations. “And scattering money all around the country rather than focusing it on areas ripe for high-speed rail didn’t help.”
But science can answer everything, right?
As one participating scientist points out, to miss the mark by so much means what we understand about the universe is fundamentally wrong. The universe continues to be exciting, a little scary, but mostly—a mystery.
Well, I have a few comments. First, I think the main reason this got voted down is the same reason Obama was re-elected; people made opinions without a solid understanding of the facts. This decision is foolish and short-sighted. The Macquarie deal is likely the best offer we could have expected. I believe that from this point the network will go dark, wasted. Where there is no vision, the people perish.
The principal objections seemed to be as follows:
Objection – Internet infrastructure isn’t the proper role of government.
Response – Infrastructure is EXACTLY the role of local governments and has been time out of mind. Sewers, streets, power lines, etc. are provided by municipalities, paid for by taxes in almost every case. There may be public-private partnerships, such as trash collection or power generation over the city’s wires, but the infrastructure is the role of local government. I think this misunderstanding comes from a very simplistic application of national politics at the local level.
Objection – Internet technology gets obsolete so quickly. This network will be obsolete before the commitment expires.
Response – While technology changes rapidly, the infrastructure does not. The copper wires we get our internet on right now are very old technology. We have the internet speeds we have now because technology advanced to take the most advantage of coax and telephone lines. The top end for copper is close, though. Fiber has much higher throughput and we can expect similar long-term usefulness of a fiber backbone as technology improves.
Objection – We can do this with wireless technologies.
Response – While there have been advances in bandwidth over the air, the very fastest wireless technologies are 1/20th the speed of the slowest fiber connections. Wireless is inefficient and notoriously bad at handling both high throughput and high traffic (multiple users connecting to the same access point). Fiber is a better solution in the long term.
Objection – Internet access is not a basic service.
Response – This is 2014. Access to the Internet is a gateway to education, enterprise, and community like we’ve never seen in this world. A fiber backbone can handle phone and television as well as data, for less cost than over copper. I challenge anyone who thinks that our poor don’t need internet access to go to the Orem Library and watch who is using the computers there. This is a basic service and only a Luddite would deny it to the poor in our city.
Here’s the quote and link from the Deseret News:
Members of the Orem City Council voted 6-1 to reject an offer by Australia-based Macquarie Capital Group, which would see the firm assume management of the embattled UTOPIA fiber optic network for 30 years in exchange for a monthly fee of initially $18 to $20 levied against all residents.