After much anticipation, Google has announced who it's going to wire with gigabit fiber: Kansas City, KS.

A city of 150,000 smack dab in the middle of America, it makes a lot of sense as a destination because of its centrality, its size, the presence of the Kauffman Foundation next door and involvement with this project, the fact that it's a city that could use some help and therefore that should be able to show clear gains once the fiber's in place, and of course there's the barbecue, which growing up with a dad from Kansas I can attest is fantastic.

Google made this announcement with little pomp and circumstance, simply putting up a blog post with a well-produced video featuring comments from Google and local stakeholders. Given the number of people involved with making that video it's impressive they were able to keep this new under wraps as I totally agree with the statement made in that video that this is just about the biggest thing to ever happen to Kansas City.

But even more than where they've chosen to build and what they're doing now, I'm interested in what's going to happen next.

During the initial announcement of this program and subsequent analysis I and many others were under the impression that Google was most likely going to deploy to multiple smaller cities rather than one big city. Given that the top-end of their goal was to potentially reach up to 500,000 people, Kansas City only accounts for a fraction of that.

Yet there's some disconnect in how to read Google's intentions within this blog post and video. In the post they write: "After a careful review, today we're very happy to announce that we will build our ultra high-speed network in Kansas City, Kansas." And later: "In selecting a city, our goal was to find a location where..."

This language implies singular to me. Yet in the video that accompanies this post Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder and president, says, "That's why we're rolling out to communities starting with Kansas City..."

The reason this distinction matters is twofold. First, are other communities that applied to Google Fiber out of luck or are they still in the running? But secondly and perhaps even more significantly, what are Google's ultimate intentions with this initiative?

As I've asked previously in this blog, do they want to build a fiber network or two, or do they want to be the catalyst for getting all of America wired with fiber?

The answer to this question defines what the best approach is for Google moving forward.

In particular, now that they've chosen a city it's likely that they'll start to face questions from the suburbs surrounding Kansas City about how the network can be extended to serve them. And I have no doubt Kansas City, MO is more than a little concerned about its little brother getting all this attention.

Another way to think about this is is Google building another island of connectivity that will stop at the city limits? If so, then what does that mean for something as basic as education, where students who live in the city may attend school outside of it and vice versa?

Or is Google using this Kansas City network as a seed they're planting to set the roots for a foundation that can grow to bring fiber to as many Americans as possible?

I bring these queries up not to question Google's actions or intentions but to help clarify everyone's thinking about the intent of this truly terrific endeavor.

While I can see a lot of value in taking the more limited approach of building a city or two and focusing on deploying working networks and testbeds, I also see a ton of opportunity to leverage this gift that Google's giving America into something that can keep giving and truly shift our country's telecommunications paradigm for generations to come.

No matter what the answers to these questions, Google should be commended for its vision and its commitment to investing in our country's capacity to continue achieving great things in the 21st century.

Congratulations to Kansas City, KS for the win. We in Lafayette, LA welcome you to the Fiber Nation and look forward to working with you and Google to develop the next generation of the Internet.

Introducing Daily's Hierarchy Of Broadband Needs

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Previously I laid out an argument for how Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs applies to the world of broadband. Today I want to take that a step further and introduce Daily's Hierarchy of Broadband Needs. This hierarchy will provide a framework within which to focus broadband policies and initiatives.

There are four levels to Daily's Hierarchy of Broadband Needs:

- Availability
- Adoption
- Utilization
- Innovation

Availability is the most basic level of a user's broadband needs. Broadband needs to first be available for anyone to use it. Without availability established then none of the other levels matter.

The next level up is Adoption. Once broadband's available, how do we get people to adopt it? This covers areas like affordability, value, and starts getting us into issues of education and usability. Adoption is what makes broadband networks sustainable.

Once broadband's available and adopted, the next question is how can Utilization better people's lives? Encouraging greater utilization relies largely on explaining to people why they should use broadband and how they can do so. Utilization is what makes broadband networks worth the hassle of deploying.

At the top of Daily's Hierarchy lies Innovation. This is where once broadband is available, adopted, and being utilized we start finding new ways to use broadband to grow opportunity and drive efficiency. Innovation is what holds the key to broadband's limitless potential to encourage community and economic development.

To some these categories may seem obvious, but one need only check out our federal government's approach to broadband to recognize that this more holistic view of broadband is not yet the dominant paradigm.

Just look at the broadband stimulus. Pretty much the entire focus of the program is on broadband availability and adoption, with little specifically referenced in terms of utilization and innovation.

The problem with focusing primarily on availability is that we need an equal emphasis on utilization and innovation to justify the investment. And by worrying too much about adoption we risk creating broadband customers but not users, further stunting our growth in realizing broadband's full potential.

Luckily, many broadband stimulus programs include programs more focused on broadband utilization, and some could argue that the entire broadband stimulus program has the potential to spur innovation by broadening the marketplace and bringing this conversation around what broadband can do for communities more into the mainstream.

But moving forward we need our broadband planning efforts to be multi-faceted, recognizing that the more we encourage innovation, the more utilization we can document, the easier it'll be to get people adopt, and the better that'll make the business case for broadband deployment. While at the same time, building supply will bring more potential users to the table to drive greater usage of broadband that should lead to more innovation.

While all levels of Daily's Hierarchy are crucially important, the most important thing is their interconnectedness. And after observing too much attention being put on availability and adoption and not enough on utilization and innovation, I decided to move down to Lafayette, LA to create a framework for how to drive utilization and innovation in a community with fiber through the non-profit I've started called FiberCorps.

With this holistic approach to driving community and economic development through broadband, I believe that we can realize broadband's fullest potential.

Best Payday Loan Apps

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Apps are fast becoming a staple in many of the online products and services we use including banking, mobile and gaming as well as a whole host of other products and services. Payday loans are no different with several already present in the market

LearnBonds is one of the newer and fast becoming most popular comparison websites online particularly for financial products. They have an entire section dedicated to Payday Loans, comparing thier terms, conditions, interest rates and for the purposes of this blog any app availability -

The Payday loan industry is notoriously either a fair and legitimate financial product for people in need who otherwise have nowhere to turn whilst on the other hand an industry which takes advantage of its consumer base through sky high interest rates and rigid rules and charges. Learnbonds through its comparison system aims to seperate the wheat from the chaff and ensure you get the best deal from the handful of companies still trading

Unfortunately, it's a sad reality of life that one of these days anyone of us could have an urgent car repair, a leaking boiler or some other form of financial emergency that we simply do not have the time to wait until payday to sort. The situation can't be helped but at least LearnBonds will take much of the guesswork regarding selecting the best provider out of the occasion

Let me start this post off with a simple statement: all broadband is fiber.

Now, some fiber-to-the-home advocates might cringe when I say this as they feel it's unfair for advanced cable and DSL systems to claim they're fiber, and in fact Verizon has won rulings against cable operators for doing exactly that.

But let's reconsider this posture for a moment.

To start with, we need to acknowledge that the Internet is essentially a series of interconnected fiber networks crisscrossing the country and circling the globe delivering data at the speed of light.

We can then define broadband as the access networks that connect us to the Internet.

A commonality of all broadband technologies is that to be able to deliver next generation levels of services requires driving fiber deeper into networks, especially when it comes to DSL and wireless.

A primary difference between the performance characteristics of the various flavors of broadband then is how close they're bringing fiber to the end user. This is even true for wireless as service improves the closer antennae are to users and the more robust the backhaul networks are.

With this context we can now define fiber-to-the-home as bringing the full power of the Internet to your front door.

It's my belief that we can take back control over the word "fiber" if we start framing things in this way.

Instead of lamenting and debating the use of fiber in broadband advertising, let's redefine the terms of engagement by educating policymakers and consumers on the significance of fiber as it relates to broadband.

I want to see a day where everyone starts asking the question, "So how close does your broadband solution bring fiber to me and my neighbors?"

And this is the question that matters most when it comes to insuring America has the broadband infrastructure necessary to support all that the 21st century economy makes possible.

So instead of demonizing profit-motivated providers, let's unify our efforts to promote a multi-faceted pro-fiber agenda that supports the upgrading of all of our country's broadband infrastructure through the deeper deployment of fiber.

I heard something rather disturbing last night. Turns out the White House's underwhelming wireless-centric broadband ambitions aren't just hurting our country, they're also hurting Australia.

I was chatting with a new friend visiting from Australia about all things broadband at Jolie's, my favorite restaurant in Lafayette, when she dropped the bomb.

Forces opposed to Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), an incredibly ambitious plan to spend $40 billion to bring fiber to 90% of its citizens, have been citing America's wireless ambitions as proof positive that NBN's fiber investment is wasteful and unnecessary.

Now, it's not new to criticize the lack of ambition in the White House's plan for building out our country's broadband infrastructure. I did just as much in this post recapping the President's last State of the Union address, and many others have called out the inadequacies of this plan.

But it is new to me that our decision to take the path of least resistance is bleeding over to the rest of the world.

To some degree one could argue this is heartening proof that America does still hold a leadership position in this area in some other part of the world.

But in every other sense I find this to be quite dismaying. It means that our country's inaction is potentially holding back other areas from adequately addressing their own communications needs.

And make no mistake, holding them back we are. If Australia's opposition is able to stop NBN from becoming a reality by believing that wireless is good enough, that will be a travesty.

Not because there's anything wrong with wireless. It truly is a platform for unbelievable economic and community development.

But a wireless-centric approach limits this development by not providing enough bandwidth nor performance to support the delivery of next-generation applications, in particular the many ways that the use of video can revolutionize our lives.

The problem with wireless is that it sounds like an easy answer. Every politician wants their country to realize the benefits of broadband, but few are willing to make the investments and hard decisions necessary to deliver the infrastructure needed to enable these benefits to be realized.

To some degree, I can't blame them. The thought that instead of having to invest billions in fiber they can just put up a few towers and call it a day is attractive.

But wireless alone is not sufficient. We need the capacity of fiber in order to achieve the full potential of our networked future.

So I say to Australia: please ignore us! Don't think that America leads the world in broadband any more as we're clearly coming up short in our ambitions. So don't let us sabotage your own efforts to enable the future of your economy.

Talk of the day when we will no longer use physical media like CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs is accelerating faster than ever, as exemplified in particular by Apple.

Their next generation operating system appears as though it's going to be delivered through the Mac App Store electronically rather than shipped on disc. They're positioning this Store to be the gateway for almost all software on Macs. They're already responsible for driving the digital download knife much deeper into the CD market through the three-headed beast of iTunes, iPods, and iPhones. And they're starting to push hard to do the same to DVDs and Blu-Ray for TV and movies.

While Apple's far from alone in the push to transition media distribution away from shipping physical media and towards network delivery, they're one of the most visible and successful companies pushing for this ideal that could have a huge impact on our economy and environment. But this impact won't happen without the availability of lots and lots of bandwidth.

We live in a world today that has the technological capability of getting rid of physical media, yet we're still producing well over a billion optical discs a year. That's 20,000 tons of plastic just on the discs, and likely at least another 20,000 tons of plastic for packaging. That's a billion discs that have to be housed in large buildings and that represent inventory that has to be managed to insure supply and profit. That's a billion discs that have to be shipped to these stores.

While I don't have a good number for the overall affect of physical media waste and transportation on the environment, and it's likely to be a number relatively small to the total amount of waste we produce, there's no denying that this is a significant and avoidable number.

You can then expand the argument against physical media to include almost all things paper. Many rightly argue that ink on paper delivers a tactile experience that computers can't, but that doesn't change the fact that we create an incredible amount of waste when trying to convey messages through paper. So much paper mail, newspapers, books, magazines, and more, all of which needs to be produced, stored, shipped, and then will likely some day be thrown away, with most of this waste being completely unnecessary.

By more fully embracing the transition away from physical media we not only eliminate waste, we'll also get to benefit from the many benefits of online distribution, like the fact a book, movie, album, or whatever can be stored once and inventory created only as demand warrants and without any significant incremental cost in resources to produce or deliver it.

Of course, despite this promise, we're not quite yet living in a day when we can completely abandon physical media. Too many people aren't connected yet, the business models aren't fully developed and consumer-friendly enough relative to traditional media distribution, and for users getting into the digital download ecosystem is still too expensive, too complicated to use, and most instances have too many usage restrictions on the content.

But this is the future that technology is racing to. This is one aspect of our broadband-powered future that we've all been waiting for and we're now watching happen in front of our eyes.

Here's the most important thing, though: this future needs lots and lots of bandwidth to establish itself further and thrive into the future.

For Apple to want to move into an all digital download world is great, but how do they expect their users to be able to have a good experience moving with them in this direction if their broadband connections aren't up to snuff? How long are users willing to wait for their content if their pipes aren't big enough?

This is a very real problem given the patchwork state of America's broadband ecosystem.

To help put the need for lots and lots of bandwidth to drive the transition to digital downloads, let's lay this out in some concrete terms.

For starters, a music album on a CD is typically about a 700MB file. A two-hour movie on a DVD is about 5GB (it can sometimes be a dual-layer disc and use closer to 9GB, but we'll start with 5GB for now). And a two-hour HD movie on Blu-Ray is 25GB (could also double in some instances to 50GB).

Now let's see, how long would it take to download that music album using different connections? (Times below are ballpark rather than exact.)

56Kbps - 29 hours
1.5Mbps - 1 hour
50Mbps - 2 minutes
100Mbps - 1 minute
1Gbps - 5 seconds

OK, so how long will it take to download that standard definition movie instead of getting it on DVD?

56Kbps - 230 hours
1.5Mbps - 8 hours
50Mbps - 15 minutes
100Mbps - 7 minutes
1Gbps - 1 minute

And what about that HD movie on Blu-Ray?

56Kbps - 1,000 hours
1.5Mbps - 40 hours
50Mbps - 1 hour
100Mbps - 30 minutes
1Gbps - 4 minutes

Now to further put this within the context of our national broadband ambitions, the FCC has set the goal of delivering 4Mbps service to nearly all Americans. Let's give them the best-case scenario and say that an HD movie delivered online would be more compressed and therefore have a smaller file size, roughly equivalent to a standard definition movie on DVD, or 5GB.

To deliver that compressed 5GB HD movie over a 4Mbps connection will take at least 3 hours. And this truly is a best-case scenario as what happens if someone else is trying to use the Internet on that broadband connection? What if that broadband connection is shared and too oversubscribed so that while the provider says they're offering 4Mbps service in reality the throughput being realized by users is much lower? And what if a user actually wants to watch an HD movie in full HD on their new HD TV? Well now we're back to a 25GB+ file that'll take 15+ hours to download at 4Mbps.

Then as an additional wrinkle, what about bandwidth caps? If we want to start moving consumers to buying all their music, video, and software online rather than on disc, then we're going to start seeing tomorrow's average users look a lot like the today's bandwidth hogs that many broadband providers are trying to limit through caps.

What this all comes back to is that if we want to realize the full potential of the digital download world that Apple's pushing hard to make a reality, then we have to have a broadband infrastructure in place to support this digital economy.

And yet, where has Apple been in the national broadband planning process? Why aren't they out there as champions for high bandwidth, high cap networks to enable their vision for the future of their business?

This criticism is not just limited to Apple. Any business that plans to grow itself based on the digital download model should be a champion for getting next generation broadband networks deployed as far, as wide, and as fast as possible, as without these networks we'll never be able to transition away from physical media.

So if you're an individual, a company, or an organization that believes the future of America's entertainment and software economies should rely on digital downloads rather than producing and distributing wasteful physical media then it's time to stand up and start demanding that our citizens get the kind of networks we need to realize the potential of this revolutionary new paradigm.

Put simply: the hype of a world without physical media will never turn into a reality without lots of bandwidth to support it, just like light bulbs, refrigerators, and toasters couldn't happen until everyone had adequate electricity. Until we more fully realize this truth and its ramifications, the growth of our country's digital economy will continue to be stunted.

America Falls Far Short Of South Korean Ambition

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Well here we go, our South Korean friends are at it again, setting the goal of delivering 1Gbps to all of its residents by 2012. By doing this they're raising the bar even higher for what it means to have a globally competitive broadband infrastructure.

While this is far from the first time I've lamented seeing South Korea leave America in its dust bandwidth-wise, because of the release of the National Broadband Map we now have an image that clearly lays out just how severely we're falling short if we want to be an international broadband leader, namely the current deployment of fiber in the US:

us fiber deployment 3.jpg

Notice something missing? Like any widespread fiber deployment?!

The reason this map is so significant is that if you're talking about want to deliver 1Gbps to homes, there's really no technology that can enable that today other than fiber. Cable may be able to get there some day in the future, but it's not there yet and even if it gets there its upload capacity will likely continue to be inadequate and its performance will be underwhelming. DSL will be lucky to hit 100Mbps, and wireless will never be able to reliably deliver that kind of capacity.

Basically, if America wants to deliver 1Gbps service we need fiber, and as is shown by this map we just don't have much fiber deployed yet.

Making this even more frustrating is that because South Korea has focused investment in large-scale fiber deployment, it'll be easy for them to continue raising this bar. It wouldn't surprise me to see them jump to 10Gbps in the next five years, which they can do because fiber can be upgrade easily and almost indefinitely.

On our side of the Pacific, there's no clear path for how we can achieve anything resembling universal access to 1Gbps service. Not just in the next two years to keep up with South Korea but ever. I hate to be pessimistic or fall victim to using too much hyperbole, but just look at this map! We're not just a little behind, even if we got our act together in a big way tomorrow we'd still be trailing South Korea by a decade or more.

Our President and FCC Chairman like talking about the many benefits of broadband and the need for America to have some of the world's best broadband infrastructure, yet they almost never talk about the significance of fiber deployment relative to achieving this infrastructure and realizing all these benefits of broadband.

We must make sure they don't ignore the contrast between South Korea's ambitions and our own underwhelming reality. If we are really serious about wanting to lead rather than follow, then South Korea's 1Gbps announcement combined with this National Broadband Map needs to be the catalyst that lights the fire for America to start getting serious about delivering the broadband infrastructure our innovators need to compete in the global economy.

After endless hand wringing over the purpose and process of the national broadband mapping effort, we finally have some results to consider. Released last week, the National Broadband Map is the culmination of $300 million worth of investment and more than a year's work by all 50 states.

So what fruits have all this labor born? A pretty map with some basic features that falls way short of what our country needs.

When you first get into the map things look kind of nice. The site's reasonably well laid out, the results of searching for broadband availability at your address appear robust, and everything seems to fit together nicely. But the story changes as you drill down into things.

For starters, the performance of the site is inconsistent. Pages can take a while to load and searches don't always run right. This likely has at least something to do with too many people trying to use it at the same time, but it's still a frustration I'm likely not alone in having.

In terms of the data itself, it's hard not to feel like it's really incomplete and somewhat inaccurate.

Right off the bat you'll notice that they don't seem to distinguish between business vs. residential broadband. There's also no discussion of shared vs. dedicated bandwidth. They do distinguish between "wired" and "wireless" but there's no mention of a distinction between fixed and mobile wireless broadband. So it's hard to get a handle on what they even mean by "broadband" in terms of what the map's supposed to be showing.

Then when I type in my address in Lafayette the results I get raise even more questions. For example, they cite "Lafayette City Parish Consolidated Government" as a provider (when it should be LUSFiber) but the only services they cite are 100Mbps-1Gbps. In actuality, the highest residential service LUSFiber offers is 50Mbps, though you can get a 100Mbps service, and the only 1Gbps service they offer is on their dedicated carrier-class network, not their shared residential network. So here's a specific example of how the map seems to be confusing business vs. residential broadband.

I also wonder why the map doesn't list all the service tiers for each provider. What good is knowing the top speed available if I don't require that much bandwidth? Why couldn't this map have shown each level of service?

Making matters worse is the next listing that appears is Cox Communications offering 50-100Mbps. I just checked their site and the fastest residential service Cox offers is 50Mbps, yet I know they offer business service at speeds beyond 100Mbps. So how'd the map come up with this range of 50-100Mbps?

The listing for AT&T; cites a range from 6-10Mbps. Again I check the provider's site, and again I find the same discrepancy: the top service they're advertising at my address is 6Mbps, and I don't know where the 10Mbps is coming from.

Confusing me even further is that they included a company called Xfone in the listings that I've never heard of before. I've tried to find out if they offer me service online but it's not entirely clear on their site if they do. I had thought they were likely riding AT&T;'s DSL line to do this as I don't think they have any significant network infrastructure in town, especially in residential areas, but they list Xfone's service as being available at 10-25Mbps. Also if they were riding AT&T;'s DSL pipes then there are likely others that should be listed here as well.

One of the most upsetting things about these results is that they bury information about upload capacity. The main results page doesn't even acknowledge that there's a distinction to be made. It's only once you click on a provider you get to see what that upload capacity is. It's as if they don't think upload capacity is all that important. And yet again I'm finding inconsistencies between the data in this map and that available on providers' public websites.

Another missing piece of information is something that many others have already pointed out, namely the lack of any data about the price of service. The map's tagline is "How connected is my community?" but you can't answer that question fully without knowing how expensive service is. Some providers could claim they offer 1Gbps to every building, but if the service is too expensive for anyone to afford can we really claim that community's connected?

And, not surprisingly given the many other missing data points, there's no mention of usage restrictions or bandwidth caps with any of these services, which can make a dramatic difference as to how consumers can actually use these pipes.

While there are more shortcomings I can cite in other areas of the map (like why don't they have links back to the sites of providers?!), the question that I keep coming back to is: what's the point of this map?

Do we want it to be able to inform policymakers about if their communities are served by broadband? Well it fails at that by leaving out price, downplaying upload capacity, and relying on questionable data.

Do we want it to be able to inform consumers to make better broadband decisions to create a more robust broadband marketplace? Well it fails there too by leaving out price, downplaying upload capacity, and any information about usage restrictions.

The harsh reality of this map is that we've spent $300 million in taxpayer dollars on a map that at best really only shows what top-end speeds broadband providers are claiming they can deliver.

With no distinction between business and residential, no discussion of shared vs. dedicated, no mention of usage restrictions and bandwidth caps, nothing about the cost of service in total and per Mbps, all the focus being on advertised speeds vs. actual speeds being realized by customers, and no effort made to tout the importance of upload capacity, I'm really not sure what the point of this whole exercise was.

Hopefully future iterations of this map can address these shortcomings, but in the meantime I think the best we can hope to get out of this map is to have at least a little more insight into the areas of the country with no service, and to have a straw man to beat on when it comes to what not to do when trying to build a national broadband map.

Netflix Proves America's Broadband Inadequacies

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Netflix, purveyor of DVDs by mail and increasingly streaming video over the Internet, has released data highlighting the broadband capabilities of their users, and the results are grim.

While generally speaking US broadband providers are delivering something resembling their promised peak speeds, where they're coming up short are their sustained speeds.

The peak vs. sustained issue gets back to the fact that almost all providers sell broadband at an "up to" speed. So when you pay for 5Mbps service, they're not saying you're going to get 5Mbps all the time. Instead they're promising that sometimes your service will get as high as 5Mbps.

With many Internet applications, having broadband speeds vary isn't a big deal, like downloading a large attachment to an email. But with Internet applications like streaming video it's the sustained speed that arguably matters more than the peak.

This being said, the delivery of Internet video has evolved to overcome the limitations of "up to" broadband services through capabilities like variable bitrate streaming. What these kinds of technologies can do is adjust the bitrate (essentially the resolution or picture quality) of the video based on how much bandwidth is available.

So you may start out watching a video in HD at 5Mbps, but then when your available bandwidth drops the picture quality will worsen so that your stream doesn't stop and start getting all herky jerky.

What this means is that if you want to be able to watch a movie in HD on the Internet through Netflix, you don't just need broadband with a peak of 5Mbps (their HD video's encoded at 4.8Mbps), you need broadband that can sustain a 5Mbps connection. And this is where the results of Netflix's analysis turn grim.

What they've shown is that NONE of the major US broadband providers are delivering a sustained 5Mbps connection.

Now, I do have to admit that this isn't necessarily a surprise. The business model of residential broadband is based on being able to oversubscribe a backhaul connection to the Internet to make the cost of bandwidth more affordable to end users. Plus there are a number of other factors that could lower the sustained bandwidth being realized by a Netflix user, even basic things like someone else being in the same house on the same connection doing something else at the same time.

But I think it's a mistake to downplay the significance of these findings. The reason why is that there's a whole new class of applications that will require high rates of sustained bandwidth in order to work, the best example of which is videoconferencing.

There are no work arounds to delivering a high quality videoconferencing experience. With movies you can just have people download instead of stream it, so the sustained throughput is less relevant. But with a videoconference you need for both ends of that signal to be able to have adequate sustained bandwidth to support high quality video being send to and from each user.

Currently HD videoconferencing really only works on business-class broadband that has quality of service guarantees so that it can have enough sustained bandwidth to deliver a rock solid two-way video stream. But if we want to move those capabilities into the home, we need a broadband infrastructure capable of delivering sustained throughput.

One of my biggest fears is that our policymakers in DC and in state capitols across this nation don't understand this simple fact. They think that if they can get 5Mbps to people, that's good enough. But what they fail to recognize is that just getting service that delivers a peak of 5Mbps isn't good enough. What we need is broadband that's capable of sustaining those kinds of speeds.

What this Netflix data shows is that we're still a long way away from having that kind of robust broadband infrastructure in America. And this should frighten anyone who cares about the future of this country as the next generation of Internet apps will require networks capable of sustaining bandwidth.

So if we want to be a global leader in 21st century Internet innovation, we're going to need leadership to come from somewhere on making sure that our infrastructure is delivering the capacity needed to support this kind of innovation.

It pains me to say this, but our government's 100% wrong when it comes to how it's trying to solve the rural broadband dilemma.

The reasoning behind this statement is that our government leaders don't just talk about how to get connectivity to these communities, instead they talk in terms of how do they make the environment more conducive to private investment to fill these gaps.

Now, this attitude does make some sense in more densely populated areas, where private-led investment has proven reasonably effective. But when that population density drops, the profit of deploying broadband infrastructure disappears rapidly.

Where this leads us to is that government investments end up focused on subsidizing profits, which leads to a less efficient transference of public dollars into increased deployment.

When you really think about it, this mindset doesn't make any logical sense. If it's going to cost some huge sum to get rural America online, why are we focusing our limited resources on subsidizing profits for private companies? Why aren't we more seriously investing in non-profit solutions to rural broadband?

Yet this is exactly what our government's doing. Just look at this post from about RUS favoring private, for-profit entities in its stimulus awardees by a two-to-one margin.

It's worth noting that they did this in spite of Congress's initial guidance that the broadband stimulus should be focused primarily on non-profit projects.

I look at this in simple terms. If it's expensive to wire rural America, then I want to be as cost effective as possible in getting the job done. The cost of putting fiber in the ground is pretty straightforward whether you're a public or private entity, the only difference is in how much profit's built-in to the business model.

Now, some will argue that it's better to have private sector entities lead this deployment as they're more likely to be innovative and cost effective because of their profit motives.

But the truth we can't ignore is that private companies tend to only innovate and invest in expanding network capacity in the face of free market competition. While I don't blame them for this as they have fiduciary duties to their shareholders to maximize profits, we also must acknowledge that the demographics of rural markets can't support facilities-based competition. There's a reason they don't have adequate connectivity in the first place!

So what this brings me to is that if we're going to subsidize private profit-making solutions to rural broadband, then we have to put in place safeguards to insure those networks don't abuse their monopoly position and continue to invest in improving the service they deliver.

But you know what? We're not really doing that. RUS just gave two thirds of its money to private entities that are in large part profit-maximizing with no real safeguards to insure service improves over time despite the lack of competition.

What we need our leaders in DC and in state governments across the nation to realize is that rural America needs sustainable broadband networks, not necessarily profitable ones. If we focus all our attention on making rural areas profitable to deploy to it means we're effectively subsidizing those profits without any guarantees that rural America will get the service they need over the long-term.

While I think there are legitimate debates still to be had about what the best paradigm is for all of America's long-term broadband future as the private sector has done an adequate job of connecting most Americans, we need to accept that rural America needs different solutions, ones that prioritize getting people connected rather than maximizing the profits driven off of each connection.

This doesn't mean the private sector can't play a role, but rather that the paradigm of private sector broadband delivery must be different for rural America. So long as we continue to prioritize profits over people, we won't be able to truly solve our country's rural broadband shortcomings.

Recent Comments

  • Phil Barnidge: Great presentation last night. Very informative! read more
  • Chase Brumfield: Geoff, It was a pleasure getting to meet you at read more
  • Adele Tiblier: We're glad you made the move to LA too, Geoff. read more
  • Jesse Harris: The density argument is a red herring anyway. There are read more
  • Roy McMillan: Why is it that private businesses (small business land-line operations read more
  • Jeff Hoel: BroadbandChoices is a UK company. They describe their survey here: read more
  • Jeff Hoel: When Congress passed the Communications Act of 1996, it authorized read more
  • Barbara Cherry: Geoff, The political reality of getting Congressional legislation requires continual read more
  • David Gale: There is a yet more pressing need in the UK read more
  • Howard Lowe: Geoff, Thanks for your insights. FYI, Tasmania is not a read more

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