Internet for Everyone
is a new public interest group pushing for universal broadband access in the United States that launched last week. Their goal is to “make sure every American can benefit from the new economy and guarantee all citizens play an active role in our democracy, our nation must embark on a national campaign to connect every American to a fast, affordable and open Internet.”
This is a laudable goal, one that I heartily agree with, but one that is not as easy to obtain as it sounds. The profit margins are thin in broadband. Other countries are beating out the US on broadband market penetration because their governments invest heavily in their broadband infrastructure and do not heavily regulate broadband resources.
I have worked in rural broadband technology since the late 90’s starting with a primarily dialup ISP in Vermont, that became a Competitive Local Exchange Carrier (CLEC). I also was a partner in a rural Wireless ISP in Maine. I have developed some pretty strong opinions about rural broadband.
I firmly believe that wireless technology is the way to go for a diverse broadband network, but there needs to be equal access for companies willing to service rural communities as well as cities. DSL as a technology is too limited in range and infrastructure costs, and the telephone system that it rides on is likely to see less development as more people move away from land line phones. Cable internet service is only open to the company providing cable in the area. Satellite broadband is high latency, and low bandwidth compared to other services. That leaves wireless, but even wireless still has a ways to go. Access to wireless spectrum and more development on the technology is still needed, but it provides the most return for the investment in dollars and the easiest to make truly open to competition.
reports At an opening conference in New York last week for Internet for Everyone, a number of speakers from business, government and academia called for the United States to adopt a national broadband policy that would make affordable, high-quality broadband Internet access as widely available as telephone service. They also quoted New York Stanford University law professor Larry Lessig as saying "This is the first time we've tried to undertake the fundamental building of social infrastructure against the background of a Neanderthal philosophy which is that we don't need government to do it, And it's about time... that people recognize that the private sector has a vital role to play, but that it's never enough."
Prof. Lessig suggestion that government help is needed is correct, but what we don’t need is the sort of help that Federal Communications Commission Chair, Kevin Martin has in mind with his quest for a
free, wireless, national broadband
service that has a “requirement to provide a network-based filtering mechanism for the free Internet service in order to protect children and families”. Internet For Everyone’s idea that it should be a coordinated effort between private sector and the government is the right idea, but what we have now is government looking to compete with the private sector, which is a good way to crush development.
So in true government fashion, politicians and special interests are running in every direction at once and “We the People” are going no where fast.