Broadband and Schools: A Free Market Solution

Published July 21, 2010

In their July 16 Washington Forum commentary, “Missed connections with broadband,” Blair Levin and J. Erik Garr suggested that American business tends to be slow to embrace new technologies.They left out a key point: American government is slower still.

Mr. Levin and Mr. Garr were right that new technology can replace antiquated chalkboards and textbooks. But prescribing a government mandate for an already-emerging technology is a sure-fire way to limit quality of service and raise costs. For a public school infrastructure that suffers from budgetary bloat and bureaucratic waste, it is a recipe for burning up billions of dollars.

The better strategy would be to embrace the advantages of the market.

Allow competition between schools (through vouchers) and between telecommunications companies (through deregulation) to expand access to technology and lower its cost. Evidence from private and charter schools illustrates how efficiently technology can be deployed and the startling achievement gains that can be realized.

Marc Oestreich, Chicago
The writer is an education legislative specialist at the Heartland Institute.

This letter was originally published in The Washington Post.