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March 11, 2011 10:54 AM

How America's Lack Of Broadband Ambition Is Hurting Australia

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.

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