Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Quick Note on Broadband Speeds...

New NTCA report answers two of Blair Levin's three Universal Service questions (from Connected Planet)

If I learned anything in 2010, it was that Blair Levin is a true nemesis to rural phone companies and that the 4 Mbps target set forth in the National Broadband Plan is completely insufficient. I actually wrote a paper for a class last semester about how insufficient and insulting this "target" is compared to the broadband speeds targeted and achieved in other countries like South Korea, Japan and Sweden. If rural phone companies invest in broadband infrastructure to achieve 4 Mbps, they will not only be at a significant competitive advantage but the rural Digital Divide will actually increase because everyone else (i.e. urban/suburban citizens) will have truly high speed broadband at 10 Mbps - 100 Mbps or more. Although the National Broadband Plan was a positive step in the direction of successfully implementing a comprehensive broadband strategy--something that other countries who lead in broadband speed, penetration and deployment have also done successfully--it is imperative to set the same broadband targets for everyone. Thus, the fundamental failure of the NBP is that it separates rural/unserved areas and everyone else in terms of what broadband speeds should be deployed by a whopping 96 Mbps! Yes, funding is a serious issue and it obviously costs a lot more to deploy 100 Mbps service than it does to deploy 4 Mbps service. That is a problem that needs to be worked out in the upcoming USF rulemaking. But for now, I am very happy to see that rural phone companies are not settling for the 4 Mbps speed target, and they are speaking out on this issue through their advocacy associations. Rural phone companies should not have to settle for USF support for a broadband speed that was considered slow 5 years ago. And most importantly, rural customers absolutely do not deserve to be categorized as second class citizens in the realm of broadband speeds. Setting the rural broadband target at a minimum of 25 Mbps (preferably 100Mbps but I understand there are financial limitations here) will help attract new businesses and residents to rural areas, and can help revitalize communities and bring much needed economic relief to rural areas. Truly high-speed broadband can facilitate critical applications such as distance learning, tele-medicine, e-commerce, real-time video, and numerous other uses that are especially attractive for people who live in remote areas. We can't even being to imagine some of the life-changing applications that will be developed in the near future as a result of high and ultra-high speed broadband availability, and there is absolutely no logical reason why a significant portion of the U.S. population should be limited by broadband speed. Thankfully, many rural telecom providers are forging ahead with infrastructure investments despite the considerable financial and regulatory uncertainty because these companies are dedicated to providing their customers with service that is reasonably--or equally--comparable to service provided in urban areas. Hopefully there will be some resolution to USF uncertainty next month, I know I am keeping my fingers crossed and greatly anticipating the Feb. 8th FCC Open Meeting!

If anyone is interested in reading my paper on broadband speeds, entitled "Unreasonably Comparable Broadband Service: An Analysis of Leading International Broadband Plans and Accomplishments," please e-mail me and I will be happy to send you a copy.

Cassandra Heyne

1 comment:

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