National Broadband Plan Hoopla

March 16th, 2010 by · 4 Comments

Today is the big day!  The FCC will formally unveil its National Broadband Plan and lead us all into bandwidth nirvana as we catch up to the rest of the world!  *Sigh* Ok, perhaps I waxed a bit too sarcastic there, but I just can't seem to get excited.  It's not that it isn't important - because it is.  And it's not that they're doing it all wrong - I'm agnostic on that.  No, it's the little engineer sitting on my shoulder snickering in my ear at the follies of bureaucracy, not the least of which being that the executive summary had to be scanned in from a paper document.

The way the media is portraying it, Chairman Genachowski and his team will tomorrow personally don hard hats and direct waiting teams of technicians in the fibering of the bandwidth-hungry under-served.  In reality, what is happening is that strange phenomenon where people who mostly just attend meetings all coordinate their efforts to produce an plan to have, yes, even more meetings.  When complete, they then submit this plan to a even more people who like to schedule meetings but rarely actually attend them personally unless there's a camera, and even more rarely actually implement anything at all - though they might wear a hard hat or two if there's a camera.  (Yes, that would be Congress)

A plan is fine, as long as it's carried out - but it is by far the easiest step.  It's not as if this is actually hard to figure out.  We need more wireless spectrum.  We need to repair the existing rules to create a healthy environment for investment by both incumbents and challengers.  And we need more competition really, really badly.

And to be fair, the plan does its best to address exactly those things without overreaching what it might actually accomplish.  As noted over on TelecomSense, they even plan to finally clean out the stuff in the back of the fridge that is currently growing hair, like USF and intercarrier compensation; and they deserve credit for that.  But I'm still wary simply because we've heard it all before.  It's so much easier to put them on the agenda than to actually solve them and check them off the list.

But as noted in this NPR report, if the incumbents are mostly happy with the plan then it can't be particularly revolutionary.  Of course it isn't... unless one considers a promise by the FCC to work harder on the stuff it should have been working on for the last 10 years to be revolutionary - which perhaps maybe it might actually be if they follow through.  Certainly that lost decade isn't Genachowski's fault, and the FCC was tasked to create this plan so I can't fault them for doing their job.  And media and PR people are also just doing what they do.  

But that little engineer on my shoulder just keeps snickering away, suggesting just how many houses could be connected to fiber with the billions of dollars from all sources that will go into developing and promoting this plan, its derivative plans, lobbying to insert loopholes, close them, and then open some more, and of course the inevitable lawsuits to stop elements of the plan through every level of our court system.  Ah well, at least it will keep them busy, and who knows they might even get it right someday.

/rant over

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Categories: Government Regulations · Internet Traffic

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4 Comments So Far


  • carlk says:

    Robert, you are becoming, “The Great Skeptic.” I applaud you while pondering the excessive time tied to bureaucracy before true progress in the communications space, be it something like, Networx, or this National Broadband Plan, takes to be officially implemented according to quantifiable results attached to the people who really need it.

    I do have an important question for that little engineer snickering away on your shoulder, however. This comes from a person who wasn’t able to correctly identify the “Inland Empire” in his nearby back yard, yet alone, a place like China where you reside part of the year.

    Please tell us officially, how back wards we are as respects broadband speeds and access whilst comparing the Far East that is often mentioned as being light years ahead of us.

    Is it really FAST over there, Rob? 🙂 I have 4-6 Megs download speeds which frustrates me sometimes, but it’s so fast compared to my squealing modem days!

    • Rob Powell says:

      Hey, I’m allowed to be skeptical sometimes, it’s a perk of having my own site.

      As for Asia – I havent’ been to Korea or Japan so I can’t speak for them. In China where I do spend some time they are not ahead of the USA. Speeds are generally comparable to US DSL services in the major cities and reach pretty much all substantial buildings. It’s easier to wire Beijing in some ways as there are very few single family houses, it’s mostly large apartment buildings built within the last 20 years if not 10. Leave the city though and things get tougher of course.

  • carlk says:

    Healthy skepticism is a crucial ingredient for any speculator traversing this globe with internet eye glasses on, as they peer through the virtual portal of limitless video and data.

    Speaking of less skeptical CEO’s, one which has cost his owners’ dearly by attempting to wear bullish party hats in the wake of two telecom depressions thus far, take a look at what Crowe, in addition to others are saying about yesterday’s “National Broadband Plan” and corresponding initiative.

    http://denver.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2010/03/15/daily22.html?ana=yfcpc

    • Rob Powell says:

      It costs them nothing to express support for the plan, so why attack it and appear to be anti-broadband?

      That dynamic is partly why I wrote my article the way I did. I knew that those who work with the FCC wouldn’t dare say that. So I, err, said it for them… 🙂

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