The other half of this issue is net neutrality. Activists rightly object to carriers charging carriage costs based on content, knowing full well the carriers will put competitors for services such as streaming media and VoIP at a disadvantage vis à vis their own offerings. But it is equally unfair to let high-bandwidth media and applications get a free ride on the networks -- capacity is, after all, limited. The solution is to charge information providers based on the bandwidth they cause to be consumed, as well as to charge users based on what they consume.
At the same time, the minimum service level the government should mandate must be high enough so poor users aren't frozen out of "normal" services, including access to streaming media. People should be able to download music and movies, as well as have VoIP service and regular Internet access for news, commerce, and so on. A minimum speed of 1.5Mbps up and 768Kbps down and a minimum allotment of 250GB per month should suffice for that. This minimum level should be raised over time as the infrastructure capacity grows, of course.
Carriers that offer information services should be required to spin out subsidiaries -- as many have already done -- so there's no ability to use carriage fees to subsidize those services at the expense of competitors. If AT&T charges a VoIP provider 10 cents per megabyte for carriage, it must charge its VoIP subsidiary no less than the same. In other words, equal access and equal rates per usage unit must be enforced.
High-tech jobs and education
The U.S. has severely depleted its manufacturing skill base and capacity in a wrong-headed belief that it could rely on the rest of the world to make its goods and have the population rely solely on white collar and service jobs. Silicon Valley has been making the same argument for moving white-collar tech jobs elsewhere as well.
This train must be stopped now. Service jobs are under siege from automation and low pay, and the white-collar information-worker jobs that were supposed to replace skilled labor jobs are also now moving offshore. Plus there's the risk of being held hostage by providers of key goods and services that can no longer be made here. We make a lot of noise about creating energy independence, well information technology independence is just as critical.
This issue is a murky one, full of misleading arguments. The biggest one is that there is a shortage of qualified U.S. workers, which requires companies to hire overseas. The result is that older tech workers are often replaced by younger, cheaper, often imported or outsourced workers. Ostensibly it's because their technical skills haven't kept up with fast-moving technologies, but we all know that much of it is because older workers are costlier and less flexible in terms of working hours and locations. The high-tech industry prefers to throw these workers away and import cheaper ones, rather than help figure out how to keep their skills current so their wisdom and experience can be brought to bear. After all, wisdom and experience often lead to faster, better results than the brute force of the eager but inexperienced all-nighter-inclined young. Sure, there are some areas where the U.S. doesn't have the talent available, and industry should be able to hire overseas when it can't hire here. But I believe this situation is much less common than the tech industry would like us to believe.