Friday, March 05, 2010

Reports of broadband stimulus awards warrant closer reading

There have been a number of stories lately reporting on awards of U.S. broadband infrastructure subsidies under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. They warrant reading with a closer eye when it comes to the end users that will actually benefit from the subsidies. For example, this AP story on the award of an $80 million grant for advanced telecommunications infrastructure in Louisiana that reports 100,000 households, 15,000 businesses and 150 institutions such as schools, universities and medical centers will benefit from the award.

The last paragraph is key:

Private Internet service providers will use the cable to bring service to homes and businesses.

More accurately, IF there is sufficient last mile infrastructure over which these ISPs can provide service. Most likely, this award is for middle mile infrastructure that feeds the last mile -- the segment that is most often missing and in greatest need of subsidization. Middle mile infrastructure subsidies have been favored thus far among awards announced by the federal agencies administering the stimulus dollars. But both middle and last mile infrastructure are necessary to create a complete telecommunications infrastructure that will meet the public policy intent contained in the stimulus legislation of making advanced telecommunications services available to all Americans.

Network experts like Andrew Cohill of Design Nine understand this fundamental aspect of networking. Networks that don't adequately connect end users aren't truly networks. Cohill describes the last mile as the "first mile" in recognition of this fact.

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