“Broadband Is This Generation’s Highway System, FCC Chief Says” is the title of an article published today on Wired. The new FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said:
“Broadband is our generation’s infrastructure challenge. It is as important as electricity and highways were for past generations.” “We are just scratching surface of what broadband technology can do for the country.” “I don’t think enough people appreciate the very real, practical benefits that a 21st century telecom infrastructure can provide.”
At SNG, we say: “Nothing new, good to hear it.”
Our star guest Larry Strickling recently expressed his confidence that broadband service providers will not only provide the detailed supply data requested by his agency (which includes more data elements than has ever been provided for a broadband mapping project), but also that they would waive the confidentially provisions that keep this data from being associated with specific companies. Though we certainly hope Mr. Strickling is correct, we don’t believe this will happen. And, just in case we are right, we recommend that states be ready to gather as much broadband data as they can – without relying too much on carrier cooperation.
We suggest a two-pronged approach. On one hand, states should work closely, in good faith, with carriers to develop ways in which they can provide the data elements set forth in the NOFA while preserving their confidentiality.
However, we warn states against becoming too dependent on carrier cooperation in the design and execution of their broadband mapping programs.
The reason: carriers may perceive the public interest goals of NTIA’s broadband mapping effort as too much at odds with their own self interests. Because the truth is: these companies are run to maximize shareholder value—not the public interest.
On the other hand, states need to build their mapping programs to include a strong multi-source data collection process that not only satisfies NTIA’s requirement for verification of carrier-supplied data, but also can “fill-in” for that data if carriers are either unwilling or unable to provide it. That’s what we call an “augment and verify” strategy.
Isn’t that what Strickling means when he says that if carriers refuse to comply, “There are other ways to collect this [data]: there are survey techniques and other ways to collect this information short of the carrier”? “We have appropriated $350 million” to this task, he continues, and “we are expecting the states to be creative, to be collaborative, to work together, and to find some new ways to collect the data, whether or not it is supplied by the carrier.” And he concludes: “Once that is made clear to [the carriers] at the most senior levels, then this thing will work itself out.”
It’s not so simple…
That’s where we beg to differ. Our guess is that, if we just hope “this thing will work itself out,” it probably won’t – because carriers have decades of practice in stonewalling to get their way. However we agree that, as Strickling suggests, the best way to get carrier cooperation may very well be for each state to gather as much broadband data as it can without relying on them, while continuing to invite their cooperation in a shared national effort to serve the public interest.
We strongly believe that if we heed Strickling’s invitation to be creative and collaborative and “work together… to find… new ways to collect the data,” things may work out just fine mapping efforts can succeed. The choice is up to state decision makers as they evaluate their options in the next two weeks. Our suggestion: work respectfully with carriers to obtain their data on mutually acceptable terms, but also augment and verify.
Speaking at the recent Virginia Summit on Broadband Access, NTIA administrator Larry Strickling expressed confidence that broadband service providers will not only provide the detailed supply data requested by his agency, but also that carriers would waive the confidentially provisions that keep this data from being associated with specific companies.That sounds like a pretty “audacious” hope to me, though I certainly hope Mr. Strickling is correct. But, just in case he isn’t, we at SNG suggest that states be ready to put together as much broadband data as they can without relying solely on carrier cooperation.
States and their broadband mapping contractors should, of course, work closely and in good faith with carriers to negotiate agreements and develop systems so carriers can provide the data elements set forth in the NOFA on terms that adhere to the document’s confidentiality provisions and that carriers find acceptable.
But we don’t think it’s wise for states to rely solely on carrier cooperation in the design and execution of their broadband mapping programs. As the NOFA makes clear ( see pg. 45), NTIA is asking for more detailed data than has ever been provided for a broadband mapping project. The extent to which carriers will provide this data remains at best an open question.
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NTIA administrator Larry Strickling (again…) is wrong: carriers shouldn’t be trusted – certainly not to share broadband data. That’s because you shouldn’t rely on carriers to agree to serve the public interest. Not that they are inherently bad corporate citizens; but because carriers’ interests and the public’s interest are not aligned. And never will be. Consequently, carriers are never going to take steps that would entail favoring the public’s interest over theirs. It’s just plain logic; economic logic – unencumbered by the hardcore free-market ideology that telecom lobbyists always talk about.Let’s look at the facts. To put it simply, free markets don’t quite work in the broadband world.
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Over at GigaOM, Stacey Higginbotham tells us about people protesting the broadband stimulus rules. Read her post here or below:
Groups representing municipal broadband advisers and
consumer-oriented nonprofits have written a letter protesting the way
the first tranche of $4 billion in broadband stimulus funds
is being distributed. They sent the letter to Larry Strickling, the
administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration, which is in charge of distributing $1.6 billion in
stimulus funds in the first of three rounds. The groups, which include
Consumers Union, Public Knowledge and the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors,
say that the definitions used in the rules mean that the money won’t go
toward advanced technology such as fiber or projects aimed at
delivering cheaper broadband to constituents.
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At SNG, we can provide a full mapping solution that meets NTIA requirements. Or, for States that are undertaking their own mapping project, we can provide enrichment and verification. Our mapping solutions have the two key characteristics: multi-source, independently verified mapping and integration of supply and demand data. Let’s discuss each point below. If you’re in a hurry click here to download the 3-page description of our offer. Also, we’d like to know what you think of this approach: please tell us!
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Here comes our first Broadband Action Guide. In order to develop sustainable broadband strategies that are well-tuned to the needs of their constituents, states, counties and local communities need to identify “un-served” areas (those without access to any broadband service other than satellite), as well as the multiple categories of “under-served” and “under-utilized” areas. Extract:
“We also strongly recommend the collection and integration of data from sources others than service providers, to obtain the “full range” of data needed to identify, analyze and address various categories of “under-served” areas. This also provides a “quality control” check on the accuracy of supply data provided by service providers.”
Download the full guide report here.