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Summary:

These days, it’s trendy to trash U.S. infrastructure, from our crumbling roads to our tepid broadband, but luckily we have think tanks to get out there and write papers telling politicians and taxpayers just how to improve the situation. The Brookings Institution recently put up a […]

These days, it’s trendy to trash U.S. infrastructure, from our crumbling roads to our tepid broadband, but luckily we have think tanks to get out there and write papers telling politicians and taxpayers just how to improve the situation. The Brookings Institution recently put up a series on how to improve America’s infrastructure, including how to change our wireless spectrum auctions and how to increase broadband penetration.

I’m most interested in increasing broadband penetration, which should be a concern for every reader of this blog. According to the Brookings report, about 10 million people (about 3 percent of the U.S. population) don’t have access to broadband. Sure, almost 20 percent of those who use dial-up apparently wouldn’t choose broadband even if it was offered, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that not having access to broadband today is similar to denying people electricity or access to public education. Increasingly that lack of access will mean rural communities live in this century’s version of the company town, only able to get access to goods, services and information found in their own backyards.

The Brooking paper proposes some interesting solutions to increase penetration — which mostly boil down to using wireless to deliver rural broadband. In order to do that, the paper proposes, legislators would need to change the way FCC auctions off spectrum and offer up an interesting subsidy plan for carriers who would provide the service. The ideas are worth exploring, but because the FCC and politicians don’t legislate in a vacuum, the suggestions presented in the paper will never see the light of day. Instead, we’re likely to get some bastardized version of this legislation, which is currently being touted by the incumbent ISPs.

  1. I have been saying for years that the easiest way to saturate the US with broadband is to put WiMAX stations in every Walmart store. I read years ago that an ungodly percentage of the US population lives within 5 miles of a Walmart store so there you go.

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  2. Stacey Higginbotham Monday, July 28, 2008

    But what if WalMart then censored the Net like they censor its CD selection?

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  3. Walmart is not in the areas that still don’t have service. Those areas have population based in the hundreds… communities with no stop lights and a single gas station and market. The closest Walmart is 100 miles away.

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  4. [...] The Brookings Plan for Rural Broadband – GigaOM [...]

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  5. We did a nice RV trip through our home state (Colorado) last month. My guess is 80% of the time there was no Wireless signal.
    For all you Flatlanders (everybody living under 7k feet), we actually have Mountains in this Country. And if you don’t believe me, I make you run with me (avg. 120 Miles in any given 30 days).

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  6. We don’t need some airheaded institution telling us how it’s done. I AM DOING IT. Yes, lil ‘ol me, and my business partner, bringing broadband to the places that have none in our part of our state. Yes, we’re doing it wireless, and yes, we financed the whole thing boostrap style, starting 4 years ago with the price of a cheap used car. You want rural areas to get broadband… the get washington DC OUT OF THE WAY.

    They want to tax us, they want us to spend our time creating detailed reports clear down to what STREETS we cover in what towns, and send it to the FCC. They want to control HOW we run our networks, require us to not manage limited resources as if htey were limited resources. They scream at us for using tiered service, but then balk when we try to sell $50 1 Meg service to residences when that 1 meg costs us $1200 in some rural areas and MUST be conserved to make the dollars work out.

    They want to make us buy expensive eavedropping services, which HAVE NO RETURN ON INVESTMENT whatsoever, even if we serve all of 5 or 20 people.

    IF YOU REALLY WANT RURAL AMERICA TO GET BROADBAND, then get the federal government, the states, and all the do-gooder thinktanks off our backs, let us have some workable spectrum, AND WE’LL DO IT WITHOUT SUBSIDY OR PUBLIC MONEY LOANED TO US. I know, I am doing it.

    Every time I read one of these “reports” it always suggests some stupid action that would turn my business over to some telco who’ll collect twice what I charge my customers in USF funds, and still charge more than I do, but put me out of business. Or, demand I spend a few days every year not serving my customers, but providing reams of detailed reports to the government. Yeah, like I have time for such nonsense.

    Get real people, private enterprise can and will solve any need, but darnit, you gotta stop throwing mountains in their way with your ill-concieved claptrap in the form of mandates and taxes and regulations and meddling fingers.

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  7. For a large majority of UK consumers, broadband connection no longer presents a privilege, but merely a necessary service. Despite the major progression in the broadband industry, there are still small communities situated in rural settings which are unable to access broadband due to inadequate deployment of technology to these areas. These households and businesses, although small and outnumbered in comparison to those in the city appear to be overlooked in favour of the need for broadband speed requirements of city users.

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  8. [...] a post yesterday, Stacey Higginbotham over at GigaOM equated broadband to electricity and public education. Everyone should have access. That’s true, and we certainly have a lot of work to do in some [...]

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  9. [...] The Brookings Plan for Rural Broadband – GigaOM [...]

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  10. No broadband is like no electricity or no public education? I’m hoping that was said more to grab attention than based on your real belief, but I fear it is probably not far from your actual thoughts on this. I guess the government should also subsidize iPhones for the poor schleps who are missing out on the equivalent of electricity, public education, and…. broadband. Just don’t let that evil censoring Walmart get involved, right?

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