Commerce chief Locke christens ‘Broadband Nation’


Gary Locke seems a fitting choice for a ribbon cutting ceremony at an exhibit called “Broadband Nation.”

Here at the cable show, an annual event hosted by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the newly minted Commerce Secretary presided over the christening of the 20,000 square-foot pavilion on the show’s exhibit floor. There, the cable folks have erected an elaborate tribute to their role in delivering broadband and its many benefits to the country in these dark times.

So it seems appropriate for Obama’s (third) choice to head Commerce to cut the ribbon, given the administration’s evident commitment to expand broadband access and adoption, most clearly seen in the billions of dollars allocated to that end in the economic stimulus bill.

“We know that the money is not enough to serve the entire nation,” Locke said. “But clearly this is a down payment on the vision of the president of advanced telecommunications at the fingertips of every single individual throughout America — broadband telecommunications.”

Indeed, NCTA head Kyle McSlarrow and company were lucky to have Locke on hand. One of his handlers told that his attendance was only locked down this week, and that he had to dash off to a more pressing engagement immediately following the photo opp.

Count D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton among the no-show politicos on this first day of the show.

Before the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Locke was given a VIP tour of the pavilion, where a few select exhibitors got to show off broadband-enabled technologies like an interactive virtual classroom from Discovery.

Clearly they had a receptive audience.

“It’s impossible for an elementary school or a middle school or a high school to offer a teacher in every single subject mater that a student may be interested in,” Locke said in his remarks after the tour. “But through the power of technology — the Internet, and of course the incredible speeds offered by cable — those students can be taking courses … in a subject matter that’s not offered in the school. There’s really no reason why they can’t be sitting in on lectures at M.I.T. or Harvard or Stanford.”

And with that, the exhibit floor was officially open.

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