I’ve been busy these past few weeks since finishing my last client assignment. Believing the digital pen is mightier than the sword, I tackled several aspects of the National Broadband Plan.
There’s a lot of the nation’s collective hope for better broadband behind this document, plus the hard work and earnest intent of an army of people who contributed to it. That hope and work should not be shortchanged due to a few significant – but fixable – flaws assuming, of course, the federal powers that be will see the light.
Three of my articles (excerpts below) offer a framework for addressing these issues. It is up to communities, enlightened private sector players and broadband champions everywhere to pick up the ball and actively participate in influencing the refining of the Plan and USF reform, the next big battleground.
The National Broadband Plan: Some Assembly Still Required
A few months ago I challenged the broadband speed goals in the National Broadband Plan. Besides my central thesis that speed had become the tail wagging the dog when it comes to national policy, I also responded to plan architect Blair Levin’s offer to debate the adequacy of 4 Mbps as a sufficient 10-year goal for rural America.
I want to take this debate a little further. Being the person who literally wrote the book on community broadband – two books actually – I’ve talked to hundreds of people who represent communities in need of broadband. There are several additional points where I differ with Mr. Levin based on what I’ve heard from the trenches.
The Myth of Broadband Competition in America
There’s a scene in the movie My Cousin Vinny I think about every time I hear telecom industry execs and their PR front groups like CTIA rambling on in these deception-PR campaigns that claim we have plenty of broadband competition in the U.S. It’s the point where the prosecutor challenges Marisa Tomei as an expert witness.
Of the challenge, she replies, “it’s a bullshit question, Your Honor!” Basically, it’s a little razzle dazzle by the prosecutor where the facts presented in the question technically are correct, but moved around just enough and presented in a way that the question is a deception. A less knowledgeable person is expected to be taken in by the deception.
The incumbents’ assertion that communities have an abundance of competition is a b.s. PR campaign. No sugarcoating, let’s call the campaign what it is – a steady stream of razzle dazzle that presents facts and statistics that are technically correct, but moved around just enough and presented in ways that deceive less knowledgeable people.
The National Broadband Plan’s Achilles’ Heel Is Speed
Having speed goals defining the success of our broadband efforts in the United States is the first flaw. For those in rural areas, the 10-year goal is 4 Mbps download speed, 1 Mbps upload speed. For the rest of the country, the benchmark is 100 Mbps for 100 million (mostly urban/suburban) households by 2020. The plan’s second flaw is the overzealous assumption that incumbent telecom companies are our primary source of broadband redemption.
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