Broadband politics in the U.S.

The rollout of broadband Internet access in the United States has degenerated into a partisan battle between lawyers, MBAs, and other unqualified parties while engineers who actually understand the technologies were busy doing other things. This Forbes article (How the FCC sees Broadband’s 95% Success as 100% Failure), together with its comments, summarizes the battle.

The availability of broadband to the last 10 million or so Americans is at issue. Here’s the opinion of senior RF design engineer Rich Abrahams:

  1. Last time investigated, this was still a free country so we all choose where we live! Rural living is fine. However you have to put up with the good and the bad based on this choice.
  2. The only solution that makes any economic sense is to connect rural folks via satellite-based internet. However I’ll be damned if I’ll agree to subsidize this. Let them pay the going price based on their choice of living venue.
  3. As we’ve often discussed, spectrum is finite and therefore a precious resource to be managed and used sparingly. So far we’ve failed dismally at getting this across! Eventually we’ll have to prioritize its use.
  4. 95% coverage is great – you’ll never get to 100%

Rich’s opinion seems reasonable to me, yet it conflicts with the Telecommunications Act of 1996:


(a) In General: The Commission and each State commission with regulatory jurisdiction over telecommunications services shall encourage the deployment on a reasonable and timely basis of advanced telecommunications capability to all Americans . . .

Leaving aside the vague wording in the Act (What does “reasonable and timely” mean? What does “advanced telecommunications capability” mean — 128kbps, 6Mbps, or 1Gbps?), running a fiber-optic cable to each farmhouse in rural America will be expensive — a farmer probably couldn’t afford to pay for the installation himself. Do we want to follow the American telephone model established in 1913 in which businesses and urban residential subscribers subsidize rural residential subscribers?

Here’s the FCC’s broadband propaganda site:

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

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