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.
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