Monday, March 28, 2016

Why states fall short, kick the can on telecom infrastructure modernization

Minnesota to Expand Its Broadband Grant Program: Broadband Internet access has been one of the main policy discussions in Minnesota for the past few years. Governor Dayton’s Broadband Task Force has recommended the state use public dollars to jumpstart broadband infrastructure investment. For FY2016-2017, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith propose a $100 million in their supplemental budget for this issue, while the Minnesota House’s bill proposes $35 million.

Back in 2010, Minnesota set its broadband development goal: that every resident and business have access to high-speed broadband with minimum download speeds of ten to 20 megabits per second and minimum upload speeds of five to ten megabits per second by 2015 at the latest. As we recently reported, the state failed to achieve its goal, but recently updated its goal to match the FCC’s latest definition of broadband Internet with minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second and minimum upload speed of three megabits per second.

This item points up the futility of state "broadband" initiatives. Instead of setting an infrastructure-based goal of universal service, they use throughput speeds as a benchmark. In doing so, they fall into the speed trap set by the incumbents who've framed the issue of modern telecommunications service as being all about "broadband speeds." That promotes a "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" and "what's fast enough?" debate that by cynical design shifts the focus away from infrastructure. Then when the "broadband speed" goal isn't met, states kick the can and set a new "broadband speed" goal.

Why do states end up kicking the can? Because they are endeavoring to build the 21st century's information highways that cost billions with mere millions -- and without the federal funding that was available for the blacktops and interstates of the 20th century. “This is not a million-dollar problem," Fletcher Kittredge, CEO of Maine's Great Works Internet astutely observed in 2015. "It is far larger.”

No comments:

Web Analytics