Broadband and Politics

Do politicians currently in office really want broadband internet to become widespread in the U.S.?

Mitch Kapor notes:

Last week, an extraordinary election was held in Korea. The Uri, or Our party, barely two years old, decisively took over the National Assembly. It was done using the Net. It is no accident that the political coming-of-age of the Net came about in Korea where almost 70% of its households are broadband connected. Starting as a social movement organized through the Net, the new Uri party became a political phenomena.

In December 2002, the Uri party used the Net to go around Korea’s traditional political structures and elect Roh Moo-hyun President. Korea’s national politics have traditionally been regionally based. However, using the Net, the Uri put together a new political coalition based not on geography, but age, bringing together those under 30. Paradoxically, the Uri also used the Net to involve citizens at local face to face meetings.

The Net was used to begin to break the overwhelming political influence of Korea’s giant corporate conglomerates, the chaebols, who funded (both legally and illegitimately) much of Korea’s politics. The Uri use the Net to help fund their campaign with tens of thousands of small contributions.

Just as importantly, the Net allowed the Uri to go around Korea’s established status quo political media. One Net news organization, Ohmynews, is helping redefine journalism. Founded only four years ago, the online news service can gets as many as 20 million hits a day in a country of 40 million. While Ohmynews has 40 full time employees, it uses over 23,000 “citizen reporters,” and editorial policy is voted on by their readership.

Thursday’s election showed the new politics of the Net are no fluke. A month ago Korea’s old political establishment still controlled the national legislature and impeached President Roh. Advancing the new Net politics, the Uri party tripled their seats in the legislature, giving the Uri a 150 to 50 seat advantage, which will most likely lead to the overturn of Roh’s impeachment.