[LINK] Not NBN, instead, NCP

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon Oct 12 22:15:50 AEDT 2009

This writer makes the sensible suggestion (to me) that counties don't 
need a National Broadband Plan, instead, a National Communications Plan.

Broadband Isn't Just the Web, It's Our Future

October 12, 2009  By Stacey Higginbotham 

The (US) FCC seems to want to link the U.S. for broadband in much the way 
copper wire and telephones did last century. Fragmented technology makes 
that difficult. 

When Ed Whitacre, CEO of AT&T retired in 2007, one telecom lobbyist 
commented to me that Whitacre was one of the last die-hard believers in 
providing telephone service to everyone. 

This person was concerned that incoming CEO Randall Stephenson would 
focus less on landlines and more on growing revenue and generating 
profit, at the expense of rural customers. 

That's coming to pass not just at AT&T, but at other telcos as well. 

And as I watch what's happening at the FCC with regard to the National 
Broadband Plan, as well as the kerfuffle over whether or not Google Voice 
should provide access to rural areas, where it would have to pay high 
call termination fees, I realize that the FCC is embarking not on a 
National Broadband Plan, but a National Communications Plan. 

And it isn't just about providing access to the Web. 

It's about creating an infrastructure to link the country in much the 
same way that copper wires and phones linked the U.S. during the last 

Broadband, from the last mile that connects our homes to the long-haul 
networks that move the traffic around the world, is our voice, our video, 
our Web and our connection to one another. Our shared last-mile networks 
are the party-line equivalent of the telephone system for this century, 
and the FCC needs to help create regulations that take such a reality 
into account. No, getting broadband to everyone isn't a profitable 
proposition for the carriers, but the U.S. has a responsibility to make 
it happen. 

Addressing the Digital Divide

The multitude of technologies available to do so is both a boon and 
burden. Because the FCC is trying to regulate everything from satellite 
providers to fiber, standards are being dropped in order to meet the 
capabilities of the lowest-common-denominator technology. 

That perpetrates a digital divide whereby folks in wealthy neighborhoods 
get fiber to the home (private lines!) while those in rural areas get 
satellite or WiMAX. 

If broadband is to become everyone's lifeline to the world, then we need 
to make sure that lifeline can handle the demands of today's (and 
tomorrow's) communications, be they voice, texts, Facebook, Skype, video, 
or whatever else. 

But how far do we take access to those services, rather than the access 
to the pipe itself? 

Lawmakers are investigating Google because its Google Voice service 
discriminates against rural consumers by not terminating calls in their 
areas — a form of discrimination a copper-based telephone company is 
legally prohibited from making. 

These types of issues are the next legislative battles unless we unify 
our infrastructure as one nation, under broadband. 

Such unification would mean it wouldn't matter if Google's connecting 
back to landlines, because farmers in the Midwest would have access to 
some method of delivering Google's VoIP service. 

Figuring out how to unify and deliver such services will only be a 
problem if we don't have nationwide access to broadband that's robust 
enough to replace our aging technologies. 

So as we evaluate the various requests for comments, the FCC's actions 
around the National Broadband Plan, as well as its other efforts at 
regulatory reform, we need to ask ourselves how the patchwork of 
services, technologies, and providers is going to ensure that all 
Americans can do the IP equivalent of picking up a phone and calling 
whomever they want using video, voice, or social networks. 

In a speech before the FTTH conference just last month, Verizon Chief 
Technology Officer Dick Lynch said that one of the hurdles his company 
has to overcome as it transitions to FiOS is that of its own 
internal "copper culture." 

Doing so means getting the people still immersed in that mindset to see 
how crucial fiber is to bringing the company into the 21st century. 

However, given that Verizon is refraining from rolling out FiOS to 20% of 
its customers, in areas where the company says it's too costly to deploy 
fiber, I'm concerned that a key part of the copper culture being lost in 
the private industry is a willingness to provide a crucial service to 



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