The whole National Broadband Plan discussion is turning into a circus, at tax-payer expense. The way I see it, the FCC is standing in front of the operators with the tax-payer’s checkbook, ready to spend the dough.
Didn’t we pay operators years ago to connect our households? Didn’t we auction off boatloads of spectrum? Didn’t we also do this in wireless? Wasn’t 3G supposed to be data nirvana? Instead, operators have gouged consumers with fees while wracking up huge profits. The United States is 18th in the world today as far as broadband speed, but that’s because of the route that the operators have taken, not from a lack of government (taxpayer) money.
The issues I have with the National Broadband Plan is the upfront marketing hype that hides reality and the growing digital divide in this country. Below are some of the elements named in the plan and my response.
1. Connect 100M American households to affordable 100Mbit/sec service, while building the world’s largest market of high-speed broadband users, while creating new jobs and businesses in this country.
100Mbit/sec will be part of a tiered service offering. If it’s not the absolute low-end and really, really cheap it will still be used by only those who can afford it. Also, what new jobs? The major operators are the ones at the table in DC and will remain focused on running lean and mean in the interest of their shareholders.
2. Provide ultra-highspeed broadband access of at least 1 gigabit to American community anchors— schools, hospitals, and military bases, and ensure that the US will host the ideas producing tomorrow’s business successes.
Will this really trickle down to the public school system level? At the K-12 level, we have a broadening technology gap, from low-income households and communities with little technology access, to suburban school districts with decimated budgetes where students have more technology at home than their teachers have in school.
3. Put the United States front and center in mobile innovation by an additional 500 megahertz of spectrum available for licensed and unlicensed use.
I’m sorry, but didn’t we already have a big spectrum auction and hand over those keys to operators? What did they do with it other than nickle and dime consumers and serve up $14,000 texting bills? Ask anyone with an iPhone in San Francisco if they’re happy with their 3G service. There are also a number of existing technologies being improved upon around cell tower performance, using spectrum already in place. Do we really need to auction off more?
4. Move the needle— increase US broadband adoption from 65% to over 90% and ensure that American children are digitally literate by graduation.
Tell me how my $50 Comcast bill for access is going to fall so low-income families and communities can get broadband, and the PCs to go with it?
5. Bring affordable broadband to rural towns, schools, libraries, and businesses by transitioning existing Universal Service Fund support from analog to digital infrastructure.
I happen to have some family living in rural communities where the operator’s trucks stopped a few miles away because the corporation deemed the area wasn’t dense enough to run the line a few more miles. They wrote them off as households that wouldn’t be interested in multiple services. Most of these homes are Dish Network, DirectTV, and DSL subs and are stuck there. Do we as taxpayers have to subsidize operators via the FCC to finish their job and connect these households? Something they were supposed to do years ago until someone in finance decided the bottom line multiplier wasn’t big enough to finish the work?
6. Promote broadband ecosystem competition, ensure better transparency, remove barriers to entry, and conduct market-based analysis with quality data on price, speed, and availability.
We’re talking about Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T here. Barriers to entry? Have you ever asked an operator for their data? Web and mobile analytics firms have for years and have gotten nowhere. They keep the data to themselves. Will a fat FCC paycheck to build out the rest of the map suddenly produce an eppiphany to where operators start sharing data with organizations?
7. Enhance the safety of Americans, and provide first responders with access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable public safety network.
How will anyone ensure the security of it? Maybe that will be yet another initiative down the road! Will we take all of the multiple networks that exist today and splice them together, or will we just scrap them all for one large monster network? How long do you think that will take US service providers to roll out? Faster or slower than 3G?
8. Recapture and re-allocate 120 MHz spectrum for broadcast and 300 MHz for wireless internet.
Just try to get iPhones to work in San Francisco and in Manhattan first!
9. Recommend that the US federal government take a look at taxing Internet goods and services.
Don’t even go there.
10. Get the cable industry to move from set-top boxes to “gateway devices.”
Please don’t bake them into our consumer electronics devices, or a super router with data storage capabilities for another $11 a month.
In Washington, somethings change, but mostly things stay the same. This time the FCC is the one deficit spending.