Here is a comment I posted on this editorial at Forbes.com:
It’s about the recently released FCC Report on Broadband Progress.
(By the way, the FCC site is done in Drupal. Just makes me happy.)
As a recently “ruralized” American, I take issue with much of your premise:
1. 4G is not “broadband.”
It’s fast enough to check your facebook feed, quickly view mobile-optimized Web sites, and maybe gawk at something on YouTube. It’s better than 3G, and that’s all it is. Ever try to stream an HD movie over it? Ever try to Upload anything on it? Ever try to run an internet business on it? Ever try to update your operating system over 4G?
As your financial reporters surely understand, Cloud Computing is rapidly changing the way businesses of all kinds leverage the Internet. Virtualized, online work environments are slashing IT costs and driving innovation in wonderful ways. But much like you need wings to fly, wired broadband is required for any business or individual to realize those benefits. 4G is better than nothing. I suppose this is fine if “nothing” is your benchmark.
2. Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and Electricity.
Admittedly, I’m a bit young to recall the days before every structure in America had ready access power, but my understanding is that running high voltage cables to every nook and cranny of this great land was, at the time, rather unprofitable. At some point in our collective evolution, America decided that access to power (not free access, but access) was important enough to subsidize the laying of a whole lot of cable. Same with train tracks, then roads, then airports.
If you don’t see how broadband internet is equally as important to our national economic development as was power, tracks, and roads, then you are doing it wrong. Can’t think of any other way to say it.
3. Density = Profitability = Not Rural Anymore
I graduated from college in 1996. I recall quite clearly how the Internet was going to change the world. Among the many ways our lives would change, we thought, was how close we lived to one another. “Democratization” (hate that word) partially meant that you didn’t need to live near a city to have access to news, information, and knowledge. This was going to ease the burden on our over-crowded cities and lower rent prices in Manhattan.
Instead (I’ll let you fact check this one), economic growth is more teathered than ever to the fibrous connections stemming from population hubs.
Of course it’s more profitable (for Verizon, Comcast, et al) to run 100 ft of cable to a 500 unit apartment building than it is to run 1000 ft of cable to a couple farmhouses. This is why the FCC’s report is so important. Yes, we’ve made great progress since 1996. But progress does not stop at the banks of the Hudson, or the Potomac, or the Mississippi for that matter.
Thank you FCC (this time) for doing your job. Now if it only didn’t take so long to download the report on my 4G “broadband” connection. . .