Saturday, September 6, 2008

Speed Matters

From my "Ask the Expert column located at TMCnet

I was pleased to be invited to a meeting on the “Broadband Revolution” that was hosted at the Senate Hart building hosted by Jim Baller and the New American Foundation. The meeting featured FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, along with Jane Smith Patterson of the e-NC authority; Diana Oblinger, CEO of Educause; and Stan Fendley of Corning (the fiber people).

The meeting focused on a report prepared by Jim Baller and his team that was developed for the e-NC Authority, illustrating the benefits that Broadband is bringing to economic development, public safety, health, education, and the environment. The report compares broadband deployments around the world the impact upon our competitiveness within the world community.

I was not surprised to learn that the US continues to lag in delivery of Broadband via wired networks such as DSL, Cable, and Fiber. We also lag in the delivery of Wireless Broadband services, particularly against Canada, Europe, Japan, and the Nordic countries, each of which are leaders in high speed wireless networks and the associated infrastructure. I also found a report called “Speed Matters” that I highly recommend reading if you have any interest in the economic impact of broadband on your daily life.

Some interesting contrasts came out of the meetings as well. For example, Commissioner Copps referred to the recent FCC auction around Advanced Wireless Services as a “huge success”, while Commissioner Adelstein referred to the implementation of the Swedish Government-sponsored last mile fiber infrastructure as a successful model. These are obviously two diametrically opposed approaches to the same problem.

Commissioner Copps praised the report prepared by Jim Baller for e-NC as the “foundation for America’s National Broadband Strategy”. The Baller document centers on the creation of Private/Public partnerships as a solution for America’s future broadband needs, and it also promotes such partnerships as a solution for a variety of utilities.

The FCC had encountered a wall of resistance when it tried to auction the Public Safety 700 MHz spectrum in the form of a Public/Private partnership. Yet, at the same time the State of Ohio has formed “Connect Ohio” in a move to create a statewide inventory of both public and private Broadband resources that appears to be quite successful and has generated considerable praise from private carriers.

Ultimately the forum’s participants were in strong agreement on one thing: our country must have a “National Broadband Strategy” and, from the remarks of FCC Commissioner Copps, it appeared that most liked what they saw in the Private/Public Utility approach of the Baller document. Others agreed on the need to achieve the political momentum with community action at the local level.

So I encourage you to spend time at the local level with your community leaders to help educate them and your neighbors on the economic and social value of achieving a “Broadband Nation” within our lifetimes.

References from this editorial:

e-NC Report – 3 Mb 100 page pdf document

e-NC Report Summary – 12 page summary

Speed Matters – Report on High Speed Networks

Video of the Broadband Summit – New America Event

Connect Ohio – Interactive Map of Broadband

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