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White House Lines Up Broadband Playbook

If Gigabit Cities are a sign that individual community efforts can bring about significant broadband change, then the new Broadband Opportunity Council report presented to US President Barack Obama is a sign of the government's determination to take regional broadband successes and turn them into a template for the rest of America.

The report, which was just released to the public, is the result of a Presidential Memorandum issued by President Obama last March. In his memo, Obama tasked the newly formed Broadband Opportunity Council with providing recommendations on how "to identify and assess regulatory barriers and opportunities" related to the goal of expanding broadband deployment and adoption. He gave the Council 150 days to deliver its report, which had to include a prioritized list of recommended actions and a timeline for completing them.

The full report is now available online, but, in summary, the Council recommended that the government: modernize federal programs to include funding support options for broadband initiatives; use its federal agencies to develop tools for communities investing in broadband improvements; expand access to federal assets that could support further broadband development; and upgrade broadband research and data collection.

Throughout the report, certain themes are repeated frequently -- notably that there needs to be better sharing of information among US local, state and national governments, and that practices and policies that prove successful in one place should be replicated wherever possible.

For example, one recommendation suggests a one-stop government portal for broadband development resources including best practices and technical assistance for local governments and anchor institutions. Another calls for a community connectivity index promoting successful regional broadband programs and offering tools for assessing one's own community and creating a broadband improvement plan.

The report also specifically spotlights the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Mozilla Foundation to create "Living Labs" in several gigabit communities with the goal of creating the equivalent of a "smart city app store" that any community can use. (See White House Funding Seeds Smart Cities.)


The rollout of gigabit broadband access networks is spreading. Find out what's happening where in our dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel here on Light Reading.


Over and over in its report, the Broadband Opportunity Council returns to this idea of centralizing resources and creating a repository of solutions that communities can learn from and build on. In many ways, it's similar to what Google Fiber Inc. has already done in the private sector, but writ large.

Google is learning from early deployments and taking that knowledge to new cities to work with them and determine how to make them good candidates for fiber expansion. The company has argued that even in cities where it does not deploy its own gigabit service, the communities are left better off because of the preparatory work done that can still be useful for any future broadband plans. (See Gigabites: A Gigabit Battle in Tennessee.)

The federal government has an even bigger opportunity to promote this network effect. With effective coordination among agencies, it has the potential to multiply the impact of virtually any regionalized broadband innovations and make the lessons learned for attracting funding, leveraging assets and overcoming challenges available to all.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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KBode 9/28/2015 | 10:03:08 AM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. My mistake, I saw your quoted statement from another poster and conflated it as yours.

I'm bored with that (his) narrative that all government regulation is bad and the answer is apparently to let these companies run amok. We've effectively followed this course in broadband and the result was high prices, poor customer service, and millions of people unable to get anything faster than 15 Mbps.
KBode 9/28/2015 | 10:01:06 AM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. "Who will pay for it?"

The same people ok with trillions spent on military toilet seats? I've long believed that if we're seriously ok with spending as much as we do on military, we can spare 10% or so to help shore up broadband infrastructure. :)
KBode 9/28/2015 | 10:00:08 AM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. "To your point we have to also stop "Bashing Government".    There needs to be a realization that Government can be a partner."

I'd take that one step further. Government HAS to be a partner. Government is going nowhere anytime soon. The decision then is whether we want good government or bad government. As it stands, we seem intent on electing people convinced that government can ONLY lead to trouble, so we get what we pay for.

Broadband is not a free market. It requires subsidies to fuel deployment to low ROI areas, it involves taxpayer-paid for infrastructure, and there needs to be federal efforts made (as with muni broadband) to eliminate state regulatory capture. All very complicated, and all require the best government we can elect if we want it to work.
MikeP688 9/27/2015 | 11:53:56 PM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. If as part of the national commitment, a cost/benefit analysis is undertaken we can see the benefits.    There will be a "net return" after the investment.    Not everything has to be per se looked at as "Cost"--but an investment.   The question is do we want to front the upfront cost--my answer to that is no in this present political environment.    But we have got to in order to stay competitive.

 

 
MikeP688 9/27/2015 | 11:52:11 PM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. To your point we have to also stop "Bashing Government".    There needs to be a realization that Government can be a partner.    There is a law called the Adminstrative Procedures Act that actually governs and mandates a cost/benefit analysis--it is not pubicly  known or debated--I am sure you're aware of with your work.

 

 
Joe Stanganelli 9/27/2015 | 11:22:21 PM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. > Why can't there be a National Commitment?   

Who will pay for it?
Joe Stanganelli 9/27/2015 | 11:21:11 PM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. > It's never quite as simple as "all regulation is bad."

And I'm pretty sure I wasn't saying that.  In some instances, however, regulation upon regulation can redundant, burdensome, and/or otherwise problematic (such as in the FTC example I gave).  To my mind, any regulatory change but the most obvious and basic must be done judiciously and cautiously.  No, not all regulation is bad -- but all regulation is a tradeoff.  Some is good, some less so.
MikeP688 9/27/2015 | 2:45:45 PM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. As this debate ensues, the World marches on.   I am fascinated by the efforts by Prime Minister Modi of India to create Smart Cities.    We have to figure out how to transform this and be able to figure out to create the tomorrow we truly deserve.  Elements of it are already occurring--whether it is a Starbucks, a city hall, schools et. al.    Why can't there be a National Commitment?   
KBode 9/27/2015 | 10:47:46 AM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. "What a suprise.  Obama asks a Govt organization for recomendations and their output is, more govt intervention, grow govt, and more govt spending."

That's not really what the document states.

In some instances for example the moves are looking to eliminate regulation and barriers to market entry. The FCC's effort to gut state laws, usually written by companies like AT&T for example, that effectively ban public/private community broadband initiatives.

The telecom industry was deregulated for fifteen years and the result was sky high prices and some of the worst customer service in ANY industry.

"All regulation is always evil" is simplistic.
KBode 9/27/2015 | 10:45:04 AM
Re: That's a tired playbook. We need a new coach. In some instances I think it makes sense.

Take the state laws literally written by companies like AT&T, for example, that exist solely to stop towns and cities from striking public/private partnerships and improving regional broadband. I see a very positive role the FCC can take there in stopping local regulatory capture and actually eliminating unnecessary restrictions.

It's never quite as simple as "all regulation is bad."
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