26 Aug FCC calls for industry, individuals to help in defining broadband
CHICAGO – If we set the bar higher for the country’s network infrastructure, will we positively affect regional and national economic development? The FCC wants to get a better definition of broadband.
That’s why they’ve asked the industry and individuals to respond to their request by the end of the month. They ask:
- The form that a definition of broadband should take,
- Whether to develop a single definition or multiple definitions,
- Whether an application-based approach to defining broadband would work and how such an approach could be expressed in terms of performance indicators,
- The key characteristics and specific performance indicators that should be used to define broadband,
- What segment(s) of the network each performance indicator should measure (such as the local access link to the end user or an end-to-end path),
- How factors such as latency, jitter, traffic loading, diurnal patterns, reliability and mobility should specifically be taken into account,
- Whether different performance indicators or definitions should be developed based on technological or other distinctions (such as mobility or the provision of the service over a wired or wireless network), and
- The feasibility and verifiability of measuring different performance indicators.
While this could take pages and pages of technical response, here is a very brief strategic framework that fits into this column and is understandable. One thing that most people would agree on is that the current FCC’s definition of broadband is a joke.
The FCC hasn’t kept up with the dynamics of the market, and because of that, their regulatory perspective is flawed. America has slipped out of being the leader when it comes to broadband (real broadband) connectivity. If you did some research, you would find that it has negatively affected economic development.
You can easily spot the people who don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to discussing high-speed networks and connectivity. People who talk about running 100 “megabytes per second” or one “gigabyte per second” are immediately labeled as clueless by those who really know networks.
When it comes to understanding networks, speed is always defined in “megabits, gigabits or terabits” whereas storage is defined in “megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes”. Please use the correct terms. Is it being too anal to point out that mistake?
If you don’t understand the simple definitions, how can we trust you with understanding the more complex concepts of reliability, redundancy and resiliency of network infrastructures? This goes for any policymaker, network advocate, incumbent phone company, lobbyist or any self-proclaimed expert.
First of all, any definition of broadband could be set as a long-term definition to create a long-term goal or one that has a short time frame. This has to be redefined on a regular basis to reflect current relevancy as the market dynamics dictate. Both approaches have their positives and negatives.
Long-term definition: Broadband connectivity standards should be world class. The definition should be one that sets the standard on speed and throughput. Any network that’s in the planning stages today should have a minimum of 1 gigabit to the subscriber with higher offerings of 10 Gbps, 40 Gbs and 100 Gbps for commercial and government applications.
Some would say this is overkill and that 100 megabits is more than adequate as a basic service. Some would have written reports about planning new networks with 100 Mbps as the goal. That is already obsolete. One course in first aid doesn’t make you a brain surgeon.
There is a direct correlation to broadband connectivity and improving economic development. Metrics shouldn’t just be technical performance metrics. Metrics should also be established that can tie the implementation of broadband connectivity with economic development and regional sustainability. The economic factor hasn’t been fully measured and should be part of any measurements going forward.
Short-term definition: If we’re talking about the short term, what’s the agreed-upon length of time? You would be surprised on how some people get hung up on defining something as simple as this.
From a recent U.S. Department of Homeland Security conference at Columbia University, there was some concern about moving forward in a workshop because someone defined short term as one to three years while others had definitions based on their own organizations and questioned its validity. We finally moved forward only after a long discussion on which length was relevant.
The FCC and the respondents should take this as a lesson learned and shouldn’t get hung up on the minutia. We should concentrate on defining a real framework and strategic concepts. The minutia can be filled in later. When it comes to defining broadband goals, if you really understand the development of network infrastructure you realize it’s capital intensive and lends itself more to long-term goals of 10 to 20 years rather than to short-term goals.
Why is that? Implementation plans to roll out new network infrastructure have traditionally required a long-term approach with the incumbent phone companies having the most expertise in this area. When they define future network traffic and engineer transmission media to support that growth, they are looking at 10 to 20 years.
Why? It’s expensive to dig up the ground every year or two to lay more cable. This engineering time frame can change if someone is looking at a wireless solution for an area. Total coverage is important and utilizing the right wireless technology is critical. Wi-Fi wasn’t the right technology for major metropolitan areas. Those who had that as their strategic approach are mostly going back to the drawing boards. WiMAX has more promise.
While others can make suggestions, the reality of who has the most experience in engineering transmission networks into the future must be given to the incumbent phone companies. Though that will be the argument all the incumbent phone companies will promote, we also have to look at their track record for accuracy and surpassing along with keeping up with their global counterparts in other countries in implementing and sustaining a world-class network architecture.
In my 30 years of planning, designing and implementing network infrastructures, one of the biggest constraints I have found that holds up applications is the need for more bandwidth. The lack of bandwidth has been the constant excuse of why new applications can’t be implemented. What if bandwidth becomes a non-issue?
What if there is so much bandwidth that it’s not the constraining factor it has been for the last several decades? What new applications could make it into reality? How fast could they be adopted? Many new applications can be developed. What impact will they have on economic development and regional sustainability especially in the global marketplace in which we compete in every day?
The contributors to this FCC request will hopefully share this broader view and make relevant recommendations instead of people chanting for their little special interest idea to be granted and rolled into policy.
Carlinism: Economic development equals broadband connectivity and broadband connectivity equals jobs.
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James Carlini is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University, and is president of Carlini & Associates. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-370-1888. Check out his blog at carliniscomments.com.
James Carlini has been asked to speak at the upcoming Department of Homeland Security’s Workshop on Aging Infrastructure in New York City later this month.
This column previously appeared in MidwestBusiness.com, and was reprinted with its permission.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.