Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Shockingly, Our Timid National Broadband Plan Isn't Working

Back when the FCC's broadband plan came out in 2010 I noted that it had serious shortcomings -- particularly when it came to seriously acknowledging this sector's biggest problem: high prices and bad behavior due to limited competition. A recent TechNet study subsequently found that while the plan focused primarily on "broadband adoption," we haven't seen much of an improvement on that front. Worse perhaps, the study found nobody really was coordinating the plan or tracking its impact.

The high point of the plan has to be grants helping rural communities and Native American territories get wired, though even this has been tarnished by the kind of corporate greed, political corruption and oversight issues we saw in West Virginia. In short, most of the plan was a bit of a show pony designed to make us feel good, with even the few quality portions of the plan being implemented poorly.

Three years later and even Blair Levin, the man who designed the plan, is acknowledging that it isn't being implemented particularly well. In an interview with Telecompetitor, Levin lambastes carriers like AT&T and Verizon for freezing their landline broadband deployments, and gives the FCC a tongue lashing for political dysfunction and way too much self-congratulation:

Like other D.C. political institutions, he said, the commission is "increasingly caught up in a one-note narrative of self-praise rather than focusing on providing the expertise and analytic agility necessary to adjust programs to provide bandwidth abundance to constituencies it is meant to serve." In an interview with Telecompetitor on Friday, Levin directed further criticism at the FCC’s self-praise. "I would never invest in a company that had a CEO who behaved that way," he said.

Levin may be hinting at the self-congratulatory showmanship the FCC has been engaging in when it comes to 1 Gbps deployments. The agency recently instituted a "1 Gbps challenge" intended to bring gigabit connectivity to at least one location in all fifty states by 2015. The problem? Numerous people (including Levin in his new role at Gig U) have been building these networks for years, and don't appreciate the agency coming in after the fact and pretending they helped. Especially given their lack of action when it comes to anti-community broadband efforts that cripple many of these efforts.

Levin isn't exempt from criticism, given he went to almost comedic lengths to avoid even mentioning competition issues when discussing the plan, and if you'll recall insisted such criticism "wasn't productive." Nobody at the FCC was seriously willing to challenge carriers, nobody paid attention to the FCC's own data on embracing open access models, and nobody addressed soaring prices, regulatory capture, and competitive stagnation. Three years later and people, including the man who wrote most of it, now wonder why the plan isn't doing much.

Surely things will get better now that a former cable and wireless lobbyist is taking over the FCC, right?

Read more here ....

National Broadband Plan

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