21 Nov Presidential candidates clueless on broadband
Where are the hot discussions about broadband deployment and regional economic sustainability in the presidential debates?
Where do the frontrunners stand on making the network infrastructure of the United States a top issue in their debates? How come the great journalists asking the questions don’t ask where Barack Obama stands on a national broadband initiative or where Rudy Giuliani thinks we should head with gigabit infrastructures to support regional economic development and sustainability?
The answer is simple: people who don’t know it’s a national issue and a global competitive requirement are coaching them all. First, there needs to be a real definition of broadband connectivity. Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission is so far behind. Its definition of broadband is 200 Kbps. Get real.
California’s “One Gigabit or Bust” motto for broadband deployment by 2010 is pretty good to adopt nationally. As for the FCC, we should fire many of them and let them try to find a job with their limited skill sets. If connectivity was a war, they would be suggesting crossbows when the enemy has laser-guided Gatling guns.
What about the journalists? They are keeping it simple. They are more interested in asking scandalous questions that pander to the most common denominator in their demographics while the candidates think people only want to hear about their views on global warming or the price of the opponent’s haircut.
I – along with millions of other Americans – don’t believe the people in Iowa or New Hampshire represent my interests or concerns. Pandering to those voters and taking on issues that will excite these small areas make us miss some big national issues. One of those issues is broadband deployment.
If you are a presidential candidate and you can’t answer questions about broadband deployment with a real vision, you should get out of the race. You will be doing America a great favor.
Hot issue in rural America
Voters in places like Iowa and New Hampshire should still be concerned about incumbent phone companies abandoning rural areas. The competitive business model for implementing and offering new broadband services doesn’t include the concept of universal service in its marketing approach.
If you’re in a rural area, you better pray you have innovative local or municipal power companies that might consider picking up the slack and doing some broadband applications. Incumbent phone companies have already decided they’re not going to spend a lot of money to upgrade rural network infrastructure. There’s no profit in it.
The incumbent phone companies don’t want to upset their cash cow of copper even though we live in a world of fiber and wireless. The money they give to candidates and lobbyists to protect their stagecoach-era network infrastructure could be invested to upgrade it instead. There is no rush to upgrade if they have no real competition pushing the envelope and no candidates questioning connectivity.
If one or two candidates would focus on this issue as a national and rural crisis, those candidates would distinguish themselves as tackling a real issue. They’d cut across all types of demographics including rural, urban, rich and poor.
There needs to be some serious investigation on why we have slipped so far into the digital desert where all levels of economic strata have been affected and not just those in the digital divide. That would be an excellent debate. It would have real substance, which is what the majority of voters really want.
Let’s get real
Everyday Internet users know their connections are slow and are finding out they are losing to their competitors. Losing across the board to the competition? That’s not American. This isn’t a geek or an engineering issue. This is a critical American issue that affects people in every industry at every level at both business and play.
Have we lost the competitive spirit to be first, to be the best or to have the fastest in the world? There should be national shame for slipping so much. At the time of the telecom divestiture in 1984, we had the most advanced telecommunications network in the world. We can’t claim that title any more.
Will American society regress instead of advance? Was the pejorative movie “Idiocracy” more of a true social commentary on the future than what the intelligentsia of this country would ever admit?
If the space program began today, would mission control be made up of H-1B visa workers and everything at the launch pad written in English and Spanish? Would rocket parts come from China with the leaded paint on the multi-stage rocket looking great but actually toxic and peeling off? Should the shuttle have to accommodate illegal aliens?
Would the program also have a watered-down, best-effort achievement scale where just getting off the launch pad would be considered a huge success and the goals would be constantly argued by the Democrats and Republicans so no clear objectives would ever be set or met?
Would funding be pulled back and forth because Washington would not be able to make up its mind about which direction to take? Once a mission was in space, would a whiny Congressmen debate whether or not to approve the funding to be able to bring the astronauts back home?
We landed on the moon almost 40 years ago. What have we done lately? Didn’t George Bush talk about setting a mission to Mars as an objective? That was a great initiative. Why didn’t we execute his plan? Who dropped the ball on that?
Perhaps the network infrastructure should take the prominence for this generation like the space program did for a different generation.
Build the Infrastructure, Build the Country
What does it take to really implement a national network infrastructure? It’s a long-term process. You build for tomorrow and not for today. You don’t put enough in the ground for growth for only two years. You put into the ground enough so you do not have to retrench for 20 years.
Gamers in a multibillion-dollar industry that eclipses Hollywood’s motion-picture industry would tell you in a heartbeat that they need more speed and that would help the outcome in their game with others. Hollywood could revolutionize its whole distribution process if it could download first-run movies in less than 10 seconds on a gigabit line to subscribers directly.
People trading stocks always want an edge. If they can get a 100 Mbps connection, it might play a big role in getting an edge against those who only have DSL at 1.5 Mbps.
What about faster gigabit speeds to transmit CAT scans or CAD drawings? What about fingerprints, criminal pictures and real-time surveillance cameras? While there are so many applications that could benefit from what some people think is overkill, those of us in the know think gigabit is what the goal should be.
If you are going to go through what might wind up as a multibillion-dollar endeavor in every state, why not build the best and fastest? Having only 3 Mbps is too slow especially when you look globally and see that the standard somewhere else is already 100 Mbps. By the time something is built and ready to go, 1 Gbps will be a good speed.
To all the campaign strategists who think they have a pulse on the issues, wake up. This is a real national issue, and so far, none of you have a clue. I am tired of hearing about issues that were either settled 20 years ago or are questionable as to being real or junk science.
Having a second-rate national network infrastructure and losing economic sustainability in both rural and urban regions is real today. Ask anyone who has had to take a job at 50 percent of their salary in the last five years.
Forget the unemployment figures. Underemployment of highly skilled workers is rampant and is a real problem. Can’t figure it out? Try looking at skyrocketing foreclosures, slumping new car sales and other economic indicators that the “experts” can’t seem to piece together.
This isn’t rocket science. Economic development equals broadband connectivity, broadband connectivity equals jobs and jobs equal votes. Get your candidates up to speed or get them out of the race.
Carlinism: Connectivity isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an American issue.
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This article previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
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