The Broadband Landscape

September 6th, 2012


What is the role, importance, and future of broadband? Broadband for America has been hosting several panel discussions on the subject, and some interesting tidbits have emerged from one of these panels:

  • Broadband network companies support over 10 million jobs and growing.
  • Broadband-related jobs across the U.S. pay more than 41 percent above the national average.
  • 4.1 percent of GDP, totaling $2.3 trillion, in the United States in 2010, is tied to the broadband industry.

UTOPIA is proud to contribute to this critically needed infrastructure. We believe 100% that the global economy of the 21st century will not be driven by obsolete cable and DSL. Rather, our modern world demands modern telecommunications infrastructure that will stand the test of time.

Wireless will not meet our broadband needs, either. In an article for the Yale Law and Policy Review, Susan Crawford, professor at the Cardozo School of Law, reports, “As the FCC found in the National Broadband Plan, wireless broadband (whether fixed or mobile) is not an effective substitute for high-speed wired service and ‘may not be an effective substitute in the foreseeable future.’”

The “incumbents” won’t make it happen, either. In her article, entitled “The Looming Cable Monopoly” (which she calls “the central crisis of our communications era”), Crawford writes,

When there is only one provider in each locality making available the central communications infrastructure of our time, what should the role of government be with respect to that infrastructure? When broadcast, voice, cable, and even newspapers are just indistinguishable bits flowing over a single, monopoly-provided fat pipe to the home, how should public goals of affordability, ubiquity, access to emergency services, and nondiscrimination be served? And what happens to diversity, localism, and the civic function of journalism?

Once the cable digital migration is accomplished, the cable companies’ big pipes will be filled with virtual, highly-compressed digital “channels.” Three of those, or so, may be devoted to Internet access. The real growth area for cable is “broadband,” but very little of “broadband” will be recognizable as Internet access. The rest of the transmissions filling the pipe will use the Internet Protocol but will be thoroughly managed, monetized, prioritized, filtered, packaged, and non-executable—much like traditional cable television today. When a monopoly cable provider can allocate just two or three of its hundreds of virtual “channels” to Internet connectivity, and when only that provider can sell you video-strength speeds, net neutrality becomes a subsidiary issue—a tiny white bird landing on the back of an enormous hippo. Net neutrality matters, but it is a sideshow. As one content executive told me, “Comcast owns the Internet.”

The need for broadband is incontrovertible. While it’s a little older, this report from GigaOm accurately explains:

Thanks to iPhones, tablets and Netflix, the demand for bandwidth is back, and that’s drumming up interest in expanding and building out fiber networks. Today we think 1 Gbps fiber networks are enough, but soon we’ll need 100 Gbps, and a host of infrastructure companies are gearing up to provide it. Unnoticed by Silicon Valley, telecom is on the move again. Equipment and network companies such as Ciena and Adtran are reaping the rewards in their stock prices. […] Infinera is about to announce new products aimed at ushering in “The Terabit Age,” which may offer a boost.

UTOPIA is addressing this need for broadband in our member cities. We’re not waiting to be behind the wave.