Why is this page text-only?

« Broadband Speed About Latency Not Bandwidth | Main | Must-Attend Event: "Setting a High Standard for Broadband Stimulus Funding" »

April 30, 2009 5:27 PM

WildBlue Should NOT Get Stimulus Dollars for R&D; (Same With BPL)

Goodness gracious, the broadband stimulus is starting to get absurd. Check out this article about WildBlue trying to position itself for stimulus dollars.

They want money from the BTOP program to "develop" a new satellite broadband service. Not "deploy" but "develop." Even better, they admit that even if they get this government funding it'll take "about" three years to translate that support into offering improved broadband services to customers. And I can't help but think what that really means is "at least" three years assuming everything goes right, but potentially longer if anything goes awry, which has happened in the company's past with the first satellites they put into space.

Are you freaking kidding me? Have they totally missed the point of the stimulus package?

The BTOP program is supposed to be about spurring deployment now, not in a few years. There are even specific provisions saying that the money's supposed to be spent within two years of receiving it.

This story gets fishier the more you consider the details. For example, WildBlue claims that the two satellites it currently operates can serve about 750,000 subscribers at current speeds. And yet earlier in the very same article they admit that "the take-rate of its current service has reached a point where it's starting to experience capacity constraints. The company serves 400,000 customers..." Notice a bit of a disconnect there?

Another issue is the speed they're delivering now and want to deliver. Their current top-end package only goes up to 1.5Mbps down and 256Kbps upstream, and it costs $80 a month. They claim their new and improved satellite will be able to deliver up to 18Mbps down but they make no mention of how much upstream capacity that means. They've even admitted in this article that that 18Mbps is a pipe dream, with speeds topping out at 10Mbps being more likely. And who knows how much that top-end service will even cost.

So let me see if I'm understanding this correctly: WildBlue wants tens if not hundreds of millions in government handouts to do R&D; for a service that may or may not be ready to start serving customers in three years offering service that may or may not deliver download speeds up to 18Mbps that they haven't disclosed how much upload capacity it will have nor how much the service will cost.

To be brutally honest, that sounds like an even more foolish way to spend limited broadband stimulus dollars than investing in BPL (broadband over power lines). And at least satellite's been proven to work on a large scale whereas BPL has not.

My point in calling out WildBlue is not to denigrate satellite technology or even BPL. It's to shine a light on the fact that we need to be focusing government support on technologies that can get rural residents connected sooner rather than later, and that we shouldn't be risking these resources on unproven technology plays that don't at least put us on a path towards a bigger, better tomorrow.

I think that's the thing that gets me the most: these technologies have clear limitations. Even if this WildBlue project or a BPL project like the one IBM's pushing works the best we can hope for is that they get people online with the speeds that are available today. But what about the speeds and capacity that's going to be needed by tomorrow's generation of applications? How can we be satisfied with good enough connectivity and not bringing the best networks to all Americans.

That's not broadband I can believe in. And these are not the kinds of projects that should receive stimulus dollars.

Del.icio.us Digg Yahoo! My Web Seed Newsvine reddit Technorati


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)