Monday, October 20, 2008

Digital France

Remember the good old days when Sarko was making two, three, four announcements a day of new programs, tearing up the tax code, taking on the unions, comforting the assaulted and bereaved, and liberating hostages from the infidel? It was a whirlwind of activity, a blogger's dream. Then he remarried, got sober, was sandbagged by crises from Tbilissi to Wall Street, and sought solace in the calm of the Elysée. We didn't see as much of him.

But today he is back with a plan for "digital France." Compared with liberating the slumbering worker to work more in order to earn more, this initiative, the fruit of Eric Besson's elucubrations, seems a trifle underwhelming to warrant the full presidential Monty, but dog-and-pony opportunities have been in short supply, so on fait feu de tout bois. Digital television is coming to France. Broadcast frequencies will be liberated and can therefore be auctioned off to mobile Internet service providers--a one-time windfall to a state badly in need of same. There will be more high-speed Internet access as well. Who can complain about that?

No doubt the adepts of the ubiquitous "precautionary principle" will find grounds for bringing out their worry beads yet again. New antennas will spring up in neighborhoods not yet bristling with cell-phone towers. People whose noggins functioned well enough with television signals coursing through their brains will feel headaches coming on at the thought of their neighbors' e-mail doing the same. Scientific research will be brandished by six angry characters in search of an authority. Sociologists will write about new social movements. Orange and SFR will replenish their coffers. Monsieur Bouygues will find ways to favor the president with his largesse. Crisis or no crisis, life goes on.

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