DanGillmor Noted journalist Dan Gillmor has an interesting editorial on Salon.com suggesting that in order to “save” journalism, the government should focus on building out the American broadband network.

Gillmor starts by discussing the government subsidies to newspaper mailing that Congress granted back in 1792. These subsidies were crucial to the development of the American press, as they allowed sending papers very cheaply to anyone in the country.

Now, Gillmor notes, the FTC is circulating proposals on how to aid journalism—but as we mentioned before, most of these proposals are less about saving journalism than they are about propping up the failing, old-fashioned business models of newspapers. And though Gillmor is a long-time newspaper veteran himself, he feels that this is not what modern journalism needs.

At the moment, Gillmor says, America has broadband aplenty in terms of backbone, but is badly in need of high-speed fiber connections to the home. Telcos will provide high-speed fiber only if they can control what goes on it.

Imagine if we’d given the interstates to corporations that could decide what kinds of vehicular traffic could use them. If you want to worry about a threat to the journalism of tomorrow, consider the power being collected by the so-called "broadband" providers right now.

If we’re going to spend taxpayers’ money in ways that could help journalism, let’s make that benefit a byproduct of something much more valuable. Let’s build out our data networks the right way, by installing fiber everywhere we can possibly put it. Then, let private and public enterprises light it up.

With better networks available, Gillmor believes, better journalism will follow. And needless to say, they will have all sorts of other positive benefits apart from enabling journalism.

If you build it, will they come? I don’t know, but it seems like a better use of taxpayer money than trying to bail out newspapers’ ever more leaky boat (especially given that newspapers get a total of $890 million in tax breaks every year already). Instead of looking to newspapers’ past, perhaps we should be looking to broadband’s future.



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