Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Could Wi-Fi Be A Plank in the Tory Platform?

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Here's something I'd like to throw at the rest of the Blogging Tories for discussion.

First, I'd like them to read this column from Tom Friedman of the New York Times, in which he discusses how a local candidate for public advocate in New York City has made broadband connectivity a campaign issue:

Mr. Rasiej wants to see New York follow Philadelphia, which decided it wouldn't wait for private companies to provide connectivity to all. Instead, Philly made it a city-led project - like sewers and electricity. The whole city will be a "hot zone," where any resident anywhere with a computer, cellphone or P.D.A. will have cheap high-speed Wi-Fi access to the Internet.

Mr. Rasiej argues that we can't trust the telecom companies to make sure that everyone is connected because new technologies, like free Internet telephony, threaten their business models. "We can't trust the traditional politicians to be the engines of change for how people connect to their government and each other," he said. By the way, he added, "If New York City goes wireless, the whole country goes wireless."

Now, here's the thing: according to Friedman, the Japanese have already solved the wireless connectivity problem for bullet trains and subways, making them a leading country in broadband connectivity. So technologically speaking it's not impossible.

This raises the question: can cheap connectivity become a Tory campaign issue?

Think about it: cheap, wireless connectivity of voice and data, anywhere and anytime in Canada. It's already a given that such a network would be a godsend to our northern communities, where information services need a reliable means of delivery. Could the Philadelphia model that Friedman mentions be applied to our country as a whole?

It's possible, of course, that I'm just thinking pies in the sky, but it's certainly something worth discussing.

A final thought, from Friedman's column:

The technological model coming next - which Howard Dean accidentally uncovered but never fully developed - will revolve around the power of networks and blogging. The public official or candidate will no longer just be the one who talks to the many or tries to listen to the many. Rather, he or she will be a hub of connectivity for the many to work with the many - creating networks of public advocates to identify and solve problems and get behind politicians who get it.

"One elected official by himself can't solve the problems of eight million people," Mr. Rasiej argued, "but eight million people networked together can solve one city's problems. They can spot and offer solutions better and faster than any bureaucrat. ... The party that stakes out this new frontier will be the majority party in the 21st century. And the Democrats better understand something - their base right now is the most disconnected from the network."

Try replacing "Democrats" with "Conservatives." If you find the result believable, then you know that can't be a good thing.