Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's time to halt the "digital literacy" baloney and build fiber

With many areas of the United States lacking adequate fiber optic infrastructure to deliver premise Internet service, there continues to be an unfortunate effort to shift the focus away from that fact.

For example, this Texas Broadband Summit "designed to engage, educate, and equip technology providers and Texas communities with the resources and partnerships necessary to improve broadband access, adoption, and use," noting that "lack of digital literacy and the digital divide remain real issues in Texas."

What does "digital literacy" have to do with getting IPTV, VOIP and other Internet protocol-based services over fiber?   Nothing, because people have been watching TV and making phone calls for decades.  In that regard, they are already digitally literate.  And the web and email have been around for two decades and most people currently use these common services.

It's time to stop the PR baloney and work on alternative ways of building fiber to the premise -- such as community cooperatives and municipal fiber -- to fill in the gaps that investor owned telco and cable TV providers are unable to fill.

4 comments:

bobby vassallo said...

Fredrick,

While I enjoyed your article, it is hard for me to grasp the cost of running fiber through rural America. Having just returned from Southern Indiana, I can tell you that is is indeed different than my native Texas. Flat, I can see you might make a case for running fiber in expanses easily. But, hills and valleys don't lend themselves to fast, straight shots of fiber. Further, cost per premise doesn't pencil.

A good wireless network can hit dozens of farms and houses across rural American in the time it takes for you to just engineer a fiber run, much less deploy it. Digital literacy does exist, and in most of Southern Indiana, internet just wasn't around (with a couple of exceptions).

I utilized internet in areas where logging into Gmail was an event, much less reading an email. Pictures or large files were impossible to accomplish. Most need access to email and some browsing, anyway. What kind of bandwidth are you contemplating? Delivering a (true) couple of megabytes up and down would make rural America ecstatic, I believe.

High School kids in rural America who actually make it to college, immediately find they cannot compete, due to a lack of any real internet experience. Even homework and assigned papers are accessed and sometimes delivered by email, now. Speed and cost truly lend themselves to WiMax or LTE in rural areas. Fiber to the premise? Not in this decade...
Bobby Vassallo
http://valleywireless.us

Anonymous said...

Your larger point about digital literacy is well taken. While rural American lags urban America in broadband adoption even where it is available, it seems a "problem" government is ill-equipped to solve.

However, the idea of utilizing fiber to the premises is a waste of money. Fiber is not a cost-effective solution for most areas that lack broadband service today, especially as more content and usage is being pushed to mobile devices.

For instance, Facebook has acknowledged during its IPO process that one of its major challenges is monetizing mobile users, something it has yet to do effectively.

Mobile networks have many practical advantages, and those advantages are even more pronounced in sparsely populated areas.

Fred Pilot said...

"However, the idea of utilizing fiber to the premises is a waste of money. Fiber is not a cost-effective solution for most areas that lack broadband service today, especially as more content and usage is being pushed to mobile devices."

Mobile networks are not engineered or useage priced for regular fixed premise use or as a substitute for fiber. Re content being pushed to mobile devices, they are struggling to keep up with that content that consumes an ever increasing amount of bandwidth.

Fred Pilot said...

"Speed and cost truly lend themselves to WiMax or LTE in rural areas."

Fixed terrestrial wireless can be a good interim solution but cannot provide the headroom that will be needed to deliver the full range of today's Internet protocol-based services as well as emerging applications such as telemedicine.

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