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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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February 24, 2009 1:38 PM

We Should Only Subsidize Wireless And Next-Gen Wireline Broadband

Here's a basic principle any broadband stimulus dollars should adhere to when deciding what deployments to subsidize: don't stick rural areas with yesterday's broadband.

I'm starting to hear a lot of chatter about stimulus dollars going to plain old vanilla DSL and (gasp!) BPL deployment. That's the absolute worst use of money I could possibly think of.

First off, let's burst the BPL balloon. It's been tried but failed repeatedly; it's only promising 1Mbps with no great hope of increasing that over time; and despite these limitations it's still not cheap at $50 a month for 1Mbps of service. The only place BPL may play a role in the future is in enabling smart electrical networks for smart appliances. We can't afford to waste any more of our money subsidizing this technological deadend. And I'm not alone in this sentiment. Check out: DSLReports, TechDirt, and it's perhaps best put by GigaOm: "BPL is no step forward for the rural customers who need broadband access."

Secondly, it's a mistake to subsidize plain old vanilla DSL. If all we want to get rural America is a few Mbps then we should focus our attention on wireless, which can not only deliver those speeds but do so ubiquitously, providing access anywhere whether you're in a building or out and about.

But we also need to be doing whatever we can to get next-generation wireline access built out to all of rural America. While wireless serves as an essential extension cord, we need a robust wireline infrastructure on which to build the next generation of our economy. We need networks capable of at least 100Mbps and preferably we want competition, either between services on the same open fiber network or between fiber and DOCSIS 3.0 cable, which are the only two technologies that can deliver those speeds. DSL may some day be able to support what's needed, but for now it doesn't so we should be focusing our attention on what can work today.

The worst thing we could be doing right now is trying to be technology neutral. We must acknowledge the limitations of some technologies and direct our financial support to those that can truly deliver what's needed--the connectivity of tomorrow not yesterday--and that means ubiquitous wireless and next-generation wireline, not plain old vanilla DSL or (gasp!) BPL.

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Comments (1)

I get sick to my stomach when people say that they would love to go to unserved areas with DSL. This feels to me like asking for a grant to restore and old building only to tear it down a year later, after the grant money has been spent into the building project, because there is an energy efficient building that makes more sense to build.

It is not as if fiber has never been deployed in rural areas before. The model is out there. Burying fiber is easier to do then ever and yes it would mean fixing some of the copper infrastructure along the way...Oh boy that sounds horrible to replace antiquated copper with fiber...Oh yea the cost of fiber keeps coming down.

Posted by Swansoch on February 28, 2009 12:25 PM

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