In the concluding months and weeks of 2011, we have seen quite a few Opinion Editorials and commentaries on topics such as broadband, wireless, and the digital divide. Unfortunately, some have not correctly characterized the facts and realities of the market. In the last days before 2012, Neiman Watchdog released an Op-Ed which was highly critical of the FCC and the Obama Administration. While they make several good points, they miss key portions of the overall picture of the broadband and digital telecomm industry.
A few points from the article:
- The article was highly critical of the National Broadband Plan of 2010, which seeks to achieve universal access and coverage by 2020. The point of contention is that the FCC has not been bold enough in their targets or their minimum speeds of 100 Mbps and 50 Mbps.
- Additionally, the article contends that speeds offered in other countries are already faster and are offered at a competitive price point.
- The article also argues that major cable and telecomm companies are not investing in rapidly deploying new technology to the marketplace which would deliver must faster speeds.
- Similarly, the FCC, the industry’s top regulating body, has not been effective in regulating providers and providing consumers with competition and better quality service. Additionally, the author asserts that the Obama Administration is far too cozy with large corporate providers.
While we all would love to see much faster download and upload speeds, the article’s points miss the reality that the market place in America is much different than in France, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. America is still plagued by low access, especially for minority, low income, and rural consumers. The FCC deserves some credit in their renewed focus on achieving universal access and coverage with Universal Service Fund reform and a focus on implementing spectrum auctions. While there is room for disagreement from a policy standpoint, it is unfair for accuse the FCC of ignoring issues facing America’s digital future. Right now, the digital divide is arguably the most important issue facing America in the digital age, with clear implications involving national competiveness, innovation, and economics.
In addition, the article loses sight of the reality that there is a competitive marketplace, illustrated by many independent studies. Other studies have shown that the US leads the world in wireless 3G and 4G deployments, which have significantly helped Latinos and other groups in the digital divide achieve access to the Internet. At the same time, the article even disparages the Connect 2 Compete program, which myself and many others contend will help thousands of low income and minority households access affordable broadband.