The tension is palpable for many now, with the upcoming deadline on the National Broadband Plan , the news of Google volunteering a rollout of fiber to an area in the United States, and the news that Verizon is putting the halt to further fiber rollouts.

It is clear that Verizon is wanting to get some of the broadband stimulus money, and that is the reason for the buildout being curtailed. After all, why put all of its own money into the project if their Uncle Sam is willing to pony up some of the needed dollars. We have been given a figure of over $1000 for every customer added on the FiOS gravy train. While that may be a rough figure, it does not take into account the commitments of those added, nor does it give the amount of maintenance that will not be necessary over the next few years, but still the cost must be large, with the labor intensity of the install.

The smaller companies are doing little to nothing to roll out fiber, and though it is cost efficient over time, it does appear that these companies involved can’t seem to look past the balance sheets for the next two quarters at a maximum. As large an entity as Qwest is in the Southwest, I read an article somewhere yesterday that it is in line for the red, white, and blue lucky bucks from their Uncle Sam. Though I have no problem with this concept, I would, after the money is taken from the government, like to see a bit less about how ultimately wonderful the company is, when they did the altruistic thing, and deployed fiber. Nothing could be further from the truth; it is a simple business decision, and not much more. It is the work of little minds to ascribe some notion of good to anything large corporations do.

An entry on the ZDNet site, concerning the Google buildout, shows the concern of many, as there will not be, for the foreseeable future, enough deployment of fiber for high speed internet access.

Have you read the National Broadband Plan? If you’re having trouble sleeping, it’s available as a 376-page, 12MB PDF right here. And guess what? Unless someone stops planning for the broadband we should already have (and that other countries already do have) and starts hanging some fiber, it’s not going to happen.

So why I am I writing about this in the Googling Google blog? Because Google is on the right track with their broadband beta, but given that they’ve received more than their share of nominations, I wouldn’t be holding my breath that my community will be chosen. As PC Magazine reports,

Well, Google has finally reached the deadline for proposal submissions for its giant beta broadband test, and it’s going to be quite a reviewing process to sort out the winners from the losers: more than 1,100 communities responded with proposals, and more than 194,000 individuals pitched a nomination in the hopes that their communities will receive access to Google’s one-gigabit-per-second service.

Their goal of reaching 50,000-500,000 households will only scratch the surface of the demand represented by these nominations.

And given that Verizon has essentially stopped making further progress on its own fiber rollouts through its FIOS service, the National Broadband Plan should probably be renamed the National Broadband Pipedream.

I know that 10 years is a long time in technology-land. The E-rate changes built into the plan are also welcome and may be of assistance. However, there are areas of suburban Virginia near our nation’s capital that even now struggle to get 1mbps DSL to the home. The telcos can’t afford further expansion and a small-government backlash looks to be just around the corner, meaning that federal funding will probably not be forthcoming to really drive infrastructure expansion.

No, something truly drastic needs to happen if we’d like to see ubiquitous broadband in a timeframe that won’t leave us further in the Internet dark ages than we already are. And by broadband I don’t mean satellite or 768kbps DSL. I mean seamless streaming data everywhere. Frankly, the only thing that will make this happen is private industry either buying and lighting dark fiber or laying it themselves. Whether this is Google or local businesses (or even cooperatives), it doesn’t matter, but it’s going to be up to us to bring fiber everywhere it needs to be.

The other option (and I’m hoping that Google’s Android push is a sign of good things to come) will be the expansion of mobile data services. If I can get 50mbps on my phone, do I care if I can’t get a fiber connection to my home in West Virginia? The latest Android phones can already share their data connections as local hotspots. This, in fact, may be where the fastest broadband expansion will occur, driven by the potential for extraordinary mobile advertising revenue, the likes of which only Google knows how to tap.

That last bit of thought is something that drives me crazy. It shows that anyone saying this sort of thing has absolutely no clue about the bandwidth needed to provide such a process. Perhaps one person will be able to get 50mb/s in 50. The other 49 will be totally miffed that they are not getting what was promised. This is FUD of the worst kind, because it is based on lies and bad math. They are either too lazy or completely incapable of doing the math to obtain the results showing that it would be next to impossible. Tying that in with the facts about wireless transmission of anything and you have a plan that is doomed to fail. (By the way, I also think the FCC is not playing fair with the public when it allows this sort of speculation to continue – it is not possible to do these things, no matter how much bandwidth is usurped from other services!)

No matter how many people want to have that future that looks like something from the Flash Gordon or Dick Tracy comics, with everyone having the equivalent of an iPad on their wrist, it is not going to happen on a wide scale. The laws of physics can not be changed, and there is not enough will to change enough anything  needing it anyway.

If you wish to have high speed internet, on the order of what is available elsewhere in the world, optical fiber deployment is how it will happen. That is what you need to write to your representatives about, what you need to query your service providers about, and what you need (more than possibly anything else) to tell your friends and acquaintances about. If everyone is on the same page, and stating the same thing, it will be much easier to get something done on a large scale.


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