It’s appropriate that this column appears only in Working Waterfront’s web edition; it’s about spending your and my tax dollars to beef up the nation’s economy by improving its infrastructure, and these days, a substantial amount of the beefing-up should be occurring in cyberspace-where the web edition of this newspaper resides.

As some know, I’ve been working my way south along the East Coast, bound for the Bahamas and other allegedly warm places (so far I’ve reached some of the places but encountered almost none of the expected warmth).

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the stimulus package being put together by President Obama and Congress is being designed to fix our old-style infrastructure such as transportation, but it seems to be skimping on the new infrastructure we also need, namely broadband access to the Internet. I now use the system that exists to get my daily dose of news, logging on to the New York Times, Working Waterfront and other web sites to find out what’s going on. For the most part I’ve divorced myself from printed newspapers, much as I love their look and feel.

Access to the Internet from a boat can be chancy. There’s the loosey-goosey string of wireless Internet sites put up by marinas, boatyards, waterfront motels and others claiming to provide access as one of their services. A lot of these “Wi-Fi” sites are password-protected, meaning they’re part of a package of services one buys when one ties up at a marina; many of them don’t work well; all in all, I’d hate to rely on this system (which reminds me of a bunch of pay phones that have seen better days) to stay informed. And since I make my living sending stories out by e-mail, the consequences of a twine-and-baling wire system are more serious for me than just not knowing what’s going on. I can listen to the radio, after all, but I can’t send in a story that way.

I fixed things to some extent by means of two little pieces of more advanced technology: a BlackBerry like the one President Obama uses, which gives me access to e-mail and cell phone at a monthly cost I must bear; and something called a Sierra Wireless Watcher, which connects my computer to the sky via ATT Wireless. Both work well; at least when I’m near shore and ATT’s system reaches me. Sierra’s little magic also costs something each month, but I have to live with it.

I’m not complaining about the cost, in fact. I’ve chosen to spend the better part of a year on a boat, after all, and I have to pay for the luxury of doing so. But it does seem that the United States of America, as it faces up to its self-inflicted financial crisis and prepares to invest in new infrastructure, generating jobs that are supposed to fix the economy, ought at the same time to be investing in those things that will really prepare us for the century to come. That’s the Internet, for starters.

It’s also mass transit, patterns of housing and development that don’t spread us out all over the landscape, and of course more of what we’ve created so well in the past: publicly paid-for structures and systems that help us do our jobs, travel more efficiently, waste less oil. If you’ve worked your way down the East Coast on the water, you know what I’m talking about: the vast array of buoys, lights, charts, ranges, foghorns, whistles and other devices designed to guide vessels from point to point while warning them of dangers along the way. It’s a huge system, dating back to the earliest days of the Republic (Portland Head Light was commissioned by President George Washington), encompassing layer upon layer of technology. It includes canals (the Cape Cod Canal, the Intracoastal Waterway) that benefit shipping; it involves dredging and other activities to keep waterways open. None of it’s cheap, but the public benefits have always been huge.

It’s in that tradition of public investment that we should be including wider and better Internet access in the federal government’s laudable effort to stimulate the economy.

David D. Platt is former editor of Working Waterfront. He’s working on his post-retirement transition by leaving his snow shovel at home and sailing down the East Coast in the general direction of warmer weather.