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Summary:

After giving up on watching President Barack Obama’s inauguration online, I started thinking about how spoiled I am to be able to choose between watching the speech online or on a HD television set. More than 10 percent of Americans couldn’t watch a live stream, even […]

After giving up on watching President Barack Obama’s inauguration online, I started thinking about how spoiled I am to be able to choose between watching the speech online or on a HD television set. More than 10 percent of Americans couldn’t watch a live stream, even in standard definition because they have no broadband access. Untold others would get extremely poor quality as they are on slow connections that just barely meet the basic federal definition of broadband at 768 kilobits per second.

Sure, the speech was broadcast on network television and via the radio so as many people as possible could hear. But when I consider the personalized viewing experience that Liz had over at NewTeeVee, it frustrates me that we’re still arguing over our broadband policy. I’ve written about why the government should get involved, a bit about what should be done and have reviewed several plans. We’ve even discussed the role the FCC should play.

The goal is to get the fastest pipes to the most people in the shortest amount of time. The current $6-8 billion offered as part of Obama’s recovery plan is a Band-Aid that doesn’t address the underlying problem: slow, expensive broadband that’s unevenly deployed across the nation. That problem keeps us lagging behind other developed nations in speed and pricing. To solve it we need to ensure competition and access before we offer tax credits to providers.

To make the market competitive, we need information on who has access to broadband, how fast that broadband is and what people pay for it. The market will still fail to deliver fat pipes to areas where offering service would be unprofitable, but before offering tax credits and incentives we need to know which locales (and local ISPs) need incentives, and which ISPs merely want them to offset costs they incur as part of an already planned roll out. Let’s not merely buy fiber. Let’s buy some knowledge and accountability.

By Stacey Higginbotham

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  1. [...] not a new idea in the least, the inauguration’s massive online presence has prompted yet another suggestion that the government needs to get on top of providing broadband to all homes. This is a bad idea, or [...]

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  2. Here’s a plan: stream lower quality video! People want the story and can get by with lower quality video. This was the primary driver of YouTube’s success. But the current video providers don’t seemed to have learned this simple lesson.

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  3. Um, did you guys NOT hear the speech Blair Levin gave last week to the Congressional Internet Caucus?

    Fierce covered it last week. here. http://www.fiercetelecom.com/story/blair-levin-illuminates-obama-broadband-policy-tigr/2009-01-14

    The $6 billion is a down payment to take advantage of existing programs and to promote job creation. It is NOT the final number for a broadband buildout…

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  4. The future is using satelites in space, not fiber in the ground for rural areas… it’s way faster but still too expensive. Bring those prices down, get lots of people using them outside of the big cities and a fortune would be saved.

    Jon

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  5. Yes, I like internet broadband access. With higher speed, we can work more effectively and more efficient.

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  6. Stacey Higginbotham Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Doug, I know that’s not the whole thing. That’s why I called the initial efforts a Band-Aid. But as we move forward with the plans, I wanted to stress what we think are the big issues.

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  7. Agreed Stacy. What the Interstate Highway System did for 50’s America, a transformed broadband network can do for us now.

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  8. We’ve already had way too much government involvement passing laws that have supported a duopoly, and spent billions on rural networks that were already completed by our grandfathers. We need the last mile right of ways re-opened to competition and no more Soviet style central planning by the Luddites in DC. In other words we need a vibrant, wide open and chaotic marketplace, just like the one that made the internet explode to begin with.

    By the way the interstate highway system, is still incomplete and poorly maintained. The taxes originally set up to support it are routinely re-purposed by Congress while the highways go lacking.Yeah, we really need to do that to the internet (not).

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  9. “The future is using satelites in space, not fiber in the ground for rural areas… it’s way faster but still too expensive. Bring those prices down, get lots of people using them outside of the big cities and a fortune would be saved.”

    Have you ever used a satellite internet connection before? It is awful for time sensitive applications, such as gaming or VoIP. The reason is that your signal has to travel up to the satellite, then back down to a ground station. With satellite you are basically going to have at least 500ms latency.

    I think a better option would be to fast track development of 3G and 4G networks. Within a few years the idea of needing a line coming into your house for Internet access will seem just as absurd as needing a phone line.

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  10. [...] the $6 billion broadband allocation seems puny to some, the bill pledges funding for computerizing the health care system, modernizing education delivery [...]

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