Monday, March 24, 2008

Another paper chase diversion on the road to full broadband deployment

Rather than filling in their broadband black holes with updated infrastructure, telcos are instead proposing paper chase exercises that are little more than PR gimmicks designed to create the appearance they are actually doing something to end the digital divide.

Earlier this month, I blogged about mapmaking drills purportedly designed to show where broadband access exists and where it doesn't. (As if telcos don't know where their own infrastucture is deployed.)

The latest paper chase is called "aggregation of demand." It's a key element of the AT&T and Verizon-funded California Emerging Technology Fund's Strategic Action Plan presented today to the California Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce. The idea is driven by the bogus notion that telcos don't believe people really want broadband and need to be shown proof of demand before they offer advanced services, particularly in higher cost areas.

Grassroots-based efforts in Northern California petitioning AT&T to deploy broadband services in areas where it's not offered have already demonstrated that the so-called "aggregation of demand" tactic is a wasted effort that does nothing to prompt intransigent telcos to get off the dime and offer something better than early 1990s-era dial up.

One such petition in El Dorado County has garnered more than 200 signatories since it was started two years ago with no change in the dialug status quo.

Ditto a door to door petition in the Lake Tahoe basin by resident Patti Handal who along with 600 of her neighbors petitioned AT&T in late 2006 requesting DSL service. Patti and some of her neighbors did end up getting DSL last year, but only because last June's devastating Angora Fire burned out the existing ancient aerial infrastructure, forcing AT&T to upgrade it. Patti's still getting calls and emails from those who have signed and/or heard about her petition complaining about the lack of wireline-based broadband.

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