eComm: National Broadband Plan Roundtable

By April 21, 2010

The National Broadband Plan has been a major subject of discussion at eComm. At a roundtable discussion of the plan yesterday, Brough Turner of Ashtonbrooke, Paul Brigner of Verizon, Susan Estrada of FirstMile.US, Tracy Rosenberg

of Media Alliance and Richard Bennett of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation gave their thoughts on it. Here’s a recap:

Turner: The National Broadband Plan is huge -- 376 pages -- and it covers a zillion things. It’s not just the FCC that has to act, but Congress’s actions needed. There are 62 actions that the FCC intends, to take in 2010, from attaching wires to poles to fostering civic engagement.

Bringer: In D.C., the broadband plan is very powerful in furthering discussions of broadband deployment. The main thing is we’ll need a lot of spectrum in the future. By 2013, Verizon will have 4G for its entire footprint.

The Broadband Plan is very good for education, health care, energy and safety. An area of concern is that the plan focuses on set-top boxes. There’s too much innovation in this are for the government to require set-top boxes. Taking regulations from monopoly-era telephones and using them for internet is bad.

Estrada: Consumers want one pipe with a lot of providers. They want it so that everything works. No wire tangles. And the ability to take choices of providers with us. The Broadband Plan should be called ‘Instead of go big with a gig, what we got what we beg for a meg.’

Rosenberg: Is the plan institutionalizing the 75 percent of people living in a different digital universe than the other 25 percent? Duopolies is our current situation. How is that serving consumers?

Structural separation is important. Can wires and content be controlled by the same entity, and should it be? The Broadband Plan is not strong on this.

Bennet: The most remarkable thing about plan is that there is one. We’re not big on industrial policy in the U.S. It’s precedent setting just because it exists. What’s interesting is the two studies the plan commissioned.

I like the fact that there’s a big focus on spectrum. The future of the internet is mobile, so is liberating spectrum so we can catch up with Europe. The middle mile is an obstacle, especially in rural areas.

Estrada: There’s very few metrics to measure things like this. The internet’s a network of networks. What’s really important is where you’re going. We really have a complex situation here and there’s no way to measure it.

Bennet. One of the areas where the U.S. leads is broadband-connected schools. We have more connected schools as a percentage than any other country. Going to a new technology is a way to do away with some of the old telecom regulations.

Rosenberg: 32 percent of the population doesn’t have high-speed at home.

Brigner: We need to transition to providing broadband where its needed. 7 million households that don’t have wireless at home, but 4g can help fill this gap.

Bennet: The problem in U.S. is that citizens don’t want to pay for higher speed broadband. For people not into piracy or porn, there’s no need for it.

Rosenberg: The problem is the rural broadband problem. It’s so expensive to build in certain ways because of the way the country is developed.

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