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Broadband as Infrastructure

June 26th, 2012

Om Malik (founder of GigaOM) recently wrote an article regarding the US-Ignite announcement. He’s not convinced US-Ignite will do what it’s setting out to do, but his perspective regarding broadband is discerning:

Broadband is of crucial importance to our global economy. Just as railroads and roads were crucial to the Industrial Revolution, broadband connectedness is important for not only the U.S., but for the global economy. And just like critical transport infrastructure of the past, when we think of broadband, we need to look at it from three angles.

·         Policy

·         Competition

·         Usage & applications

Just as with the road infrastructure, the federal government helped with the economic shifts that shaped modern America, smart policies should be put in place to help encourage the proliferation of broadband and connectivity. When it comes to policy, decisions such as dig-once to make it easy to lay fiber are precisely what the government should be involved in.

However, when it comes to competition, the current and previous governments’ track record is deplorable. The situation today is that we live in a bipolar world of cable and phone companies. Both parties have a vested interest in letting each other thrive and dip deeper and deeper into consumer pockets.

The city governments that joined together to establish UTOPIA saw the need to bring fiber networks to their communities. The cities themselves see great benefits from the network in public safety, education, city management, etc., while also opening the door to ISP competition for residents and businesses. For these Utah cities, fiber is essential infrastructure.

A second article on GigaOM explains why the “luxury” of what is now a very fast connection (in this case, 300 Mbps) could soon be a necessity:

It boils down to the presence of more devices in the home and streaming video. Other dynamics such as whether or not folks are gamers or work from home also come into play, but across the board it’s the rise in Netflix subscriptions, YouTube videos and family members toting smart phones, tablets, perhaps while watching content on a connected TV. If there are four people consuming media with a tablet in one hand and their eye on the TV, your home requires a fat connection.

Regarding high bandwidth requirements, the author observes, “Customers who choose [fiber connections] may be earlier adopters or intentionally heavy broadband users. But it also shows how far we have come in terms of our home broadband demand” (emphasis added).

The technological realities in 2012 are such that consumer need for high bandwidth is commonplace, and it will only accelerate; that’s the nature of tech. Are we ready to meet that demand? It’s all about the infrastructure.