Craig Settles’ Broadband Question of the Day (August 13)

This question comes from an attendee of my Webinar “Finding the Right Business Model for Community Broadband

What is your take on the Google Fiber project?

In my Webinar on business models a couple of weeks ago, someone sent me this question that I didn’t have time to answer in the session. Right after ending that event I saw the first wave of the Twitter tsunami on the Google-Verizon deal before I even saw the question. I figure today’s a good day to tackle this given that a whole bunch of folks are over at Google protesting the new Evil Empire.

First here are my thoughts the day after the Google Fiber announcement in Ferbruary. But you probably want a take on GF in light of The Deal, right?  Ok, here it is.

Forget for a moment the pain of that perceived – ok, actual – knife in the back of net neutrality. Remember the scene from The Godfather 1 where the Mafioso who planned to whack Michael Corleone gets caught? Before they take him on his final ride, he says, “it’s just business…nothing personal. I like Mikey.”

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Strengthen the FCC’s Hand through Third Party Validation

While it’s easy this week to get caught up in the Google-Verizon news and bemoan the end of the Internet as we know it (though I think the real news is that Verizon gave net neutrality advocates a HUGE boost), a little watched sub-plot is cooking in the FCC vs. incumbents Battle for DC Domination. The FCC may be waving the V sign soon, but for Validation. Here’s why validation can mean victory for communities wanting better broadband.

Implementation of the National Broadband Plan has kind of stalled in the face of a he-said/she-said argument of epic proportions. Communities, consumer advocates, a lot of policy wonks and a majority of the FCC have been vigorously stating that (summarized) “broadband in the U.S. sucks!” Incumbents and their allies have been stating just as vigorously “no it doesn’t suck and we’ll spend a ge-zillion dollars telling you it doesn’t. If the FCC issues a report, we’ll spend another ge-zillion telling everybody why the report sucks.”

Who’s right? More importantly, who is right enough to persuade the policy making machine in D.C. and influence broadband deployments locally. This is where the V-word comes in. Lack of independent validation (Connected Nation doesn’t count) is the Achilles heel of the broadband stimulus, those grants sent to states to develop broadband maps, the national plan, attempts at Congressional legislation and the role of the FCC as broadband regulator.

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My Two-Step on Net Neutrality

In anticipation of, and then response to, yesterday’s FCC meeting on net neutrality, I wrote a couple of posts for Daily Wireless that consider 1) money, the root of most actions coming the anti-net neut leaders, and 2) my wonderment at the fact we can turn a concept so simple into a total circus.

A debate full of sound and fury

One of the best movie lines is in All the President’s Men, the Woodward and Bernstein are trying to unravel the Watergate mess: “Follow the money.” This advice is priceless because it’s the answer to so many of pressing questions in politics, business, geez, even personal relationships. 

“Follow the money” definitely gets to the bottom of the question of why the incumbent telcos have totally lost their mind over net neutrality. It has become a breathtaking display of whining, bullying, fear mongering and distortion of facts. Before tomorrow’s FCC meeting to present the rules (that’s right, all this wailing and gnashing of teeth from people who haven’t even seen the rules), here’s a basic overview of the debate from a pro-net neutrality perspective.

Let’s follow the money to get to the heart of the massive resistance by AT&T, Verizon, et al.

Click here to read the rest

Rumors of death greatly exaggerated

As I sat watching Mr. G. lay out the details on the net neutrality rules, I had to chuckle. After weeks of the righteous outrage of incumbents’ CEOs, cries in the wilderness to “let my people go,” AT&T execs falling prostrate rending their garments and exhorting employees to rise up against the FCC demon hordes, this is it!? Where are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Bemusement gave way to mild despair. I remembered after the FCC vote in favor of adopting the rules, we’re looking at over two months of public comment, plus a couple of more months for comments on the comments. Jiminy Cricket on a crutch! This net neutrality is such a simple concept that’s getting distorted all to hell, and we’ve got six more months of the same.

Let’s take the incumbents out of the picture for a minute. Hard as it is, pretend for a little bit they don’t exist. Ok, now that you can hear yourself think, let’s go over what was said yesterday.

The FCC believes we need Net neutrality rules. These rules would codify six principals that say the couple of hundred million or so U.S. citizens who access the Internet won’t be discriminated against in terms of what they can access (within legal boundaries) and the devices they use to access it. These rules also would require any entity that provides public access to the Internet to be open about how they manage the data passing through their respective domains.

Click here to read the rest

What are your thoughts on net neutrality, specifically, the merits of the issues being presented in the debate?

Time to Rummmmmble for Net Neutrality!

Who’d a thunk it. The next big broadband flashpoint appears to be net neutrality. Incumbents and their lobbyists have gone ballistic, with rhetoric that went from 0 to High Moral Outrage within a day. Friday the Republican Congressional leadership went directly to the President’s doorstep to complain about net neut, so that means some hum dinger political fireworks are likely in the offing.     

I threw in my first commentary on the topic in the mix last week.

Hearing all the bluster from big incumbents about how unfair net neutrality rules are and how much they contribute to the demise of innovation, methinks “The lady doth protest too much.” Underneath their pushback is the underlying threat that, without incumbents’ support, these rules are DOA.

The giants put a similar fine whine out on the table when they didn’t apply for broadband stimulus grants. But alas, they were “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” as 2,200 applications poured in from others stepping into the breach. There are plenty of local governments and smaller service providers that can profitably build networks and offer Internet services that consumers and businesses want, and without being tripped up by net neutrality.

If you look at history, it’s often been small, initially anonymous companies that drove technology innovation, creativity and competition. The biggest companies were often the slowest to innovate but the fastest to obstruct, if not outright kill innovation. (You can read the rest of this Fierce Broadband column here)

You’re going to read a lot about net neut in the upcoming weeks. One of my contacts at the Benton Foundation mentioned how surprised he was at all the media coverage, saying you don’t usually see this much until after the FCC has made rules, not when they’ve just proposed some.

My main take on things is that those of us who support community broadband need to get on the stick and pushback on all this incumbent noise. If they are allowed to discriminately throttle content on the Internet based on their financial self-interests, broadband advancement in the U.S. is hosed. 

As David Isenberg says on his blog

Network Neutrality has never been about the idea of too much bandwidth on a limited network. That’s dinosaur feces. It’s always been about whether the telcos and cablecos could leverage ties between their network and certain apps to make discriminatory, anti-competitive profits.

The strength of the Internet is that it accepts all traffic without a “will it make money” test. That’s why a Pez dispenser collector could grow a hobbyist site into eBay. It’s how two Stanford students could grow their thesis into Google. It’s how an Israeli apps company that wanted to reduce its phone bill invented Internet telephony….the reality is that if we ever say “Goodbye Net Neutrality” we’ll also be saying, “Goodbye Internet.”

Check out David’s blog. Be sure to scroll down to “Making Network Neutrality Sustainable, Revisited” This post isn’t as long as it seems and it’s very good.

At every opportunity, we have to call the incumbents on their silly allegations, fear mongering and distortions of reality. Here’s a good write-up on debunking industry talking points.

Needless to say, the road to net neut is going to be a rough one, long and definitely winding. As one of my more cynical media contacts Karl Bode stated, “At this point, I’ll believe any real, tough consumer-friendly rules coming from Uncle Sam when I actually see them. Just too many lobbyists, too few consumer advocates.” Luckily, Karl gets past (or harnesses, depending on your take) his cynicism occasionally to write some real scathing push-back pieces – and doesn’t mind if you quote him.

Tying all this back to the broadband stimulus program, this month NTIA/RUS have opened the doors via an RFI soliciting feedback on the NOFA rules. Get over there and put your two-cents in. Be sure that top of your list is “keep net neut in the NOFA!!” If incumbents won’t play in the stimulus sandbox, tell them to get out of our way! We’ve got business to attend to.

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