National Broadband Strategy Needs A JFK, a Google That Delivers and Competition

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” President John F. Kennedy, 1961.

In July of 1969, the first man walked on the moon and returned safely to the earth. This simple mission statement that galvanized the government, private sector and average citizens to produce awesome results is only 31 words. Where are broadband’s 31 words to move a nation?

This past week I engaged in a lively debate on GigaOm with the National Broadband Plan’s chief architect, Blair Levin. I disagreed with several of his comments in recent interviews I felt wouldn’t be good if adopted into national policy, as well as the Plan’s failure to address broadband competition.

Mr. Levin replied with a column of his own. It’s nice to know that people in D.C.’s circles of influence read my work, but I could see where my messages needed a little clarity as to where he and I both agree and disagree. So I followed up with a rebuttal.

Issues in this dialog are critical as DC tries to facilitate broadband reaching more people. I support the Plan’s core content and recommendation, but see several deficiencies in executing national broadband strategy that threaten the hard work of a lot of great people.

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Craig Settles’ Broadband Triple Play

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.

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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.

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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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Broadband Word of the Day – Mission

Broadband Word of the Day

This series is about words that potentially spell the difference between success and disaster for broadband projects, not by their definitions, but how they are interpreted and/or applied. Pay attention to these because in broadband, how well you meet the challenges you face really depends a lot on how you execute on these key words.

Broadband Word of the Day – Mission

This word gets a lot of broadband initiatives into trouble. Not because project teams don’t know the meaning of the word, or even what their mission is. Problems bubble up when teams can’t articulate what the mission is in such a way that wins critical local support for the project, particularly from city or county elected officials and representatives.

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