Thomas Friedman is running for office based solely on the promise of making the US cell phone system at least as good as Japan’s. He’s kidding, of course, but his point about the country falling far behind much of the industrial world in communications technology is no laughing matter.
But don’t worry – Congress is on the case. It dropped everything last week to pass a bill to protect gun makers from shooting victims’ lawsuits. The fact that the U.S. has fallen to 16th in the world in broadband connectivity aroused no interest. Look, I don’t even like cellphones, but this is not about gadgets. The world is moving to an Internet-based platform for commerce, education, innovation and entertainment. Wealth and productivity will go to those countries or companies that get more of their innovators, educators, students, workers and suppliers connected to this platform via computers, phones and P.D.A.’s.
Even if our "leaders" suddenly wake up and decide to make universal high speed access a priority, the US will still have major network problems. Building the tech connections is important, of course.
However, if you don’t have a citizenry prepared to make the best used of all the information that flows through those links, it’s all a waste. And for the most part, our educational system is not at all prepared to teach the necessary communications skills.