State of the Broadband Union

Posted January 28th, 2011 in Broadband, economy, FCC, Government Regulation, Internet, spectrum and tagged , , by Alton Drew

President Obama’s vision of where America should be in terms of broadband is very on point. We should be heartened by his call for 100% access by all Americans to broadband networks. While Mr. Obama did not emphasize job growth enough, he has determined and I agree that innovation and investment in broadband networks will spur demand for not only more labor, but create the need for higher-paying jobs.

I’m not saying that all things digital is the panacea for our economic ills and I don’t think that the President is saying that either. Mr. Obama recognizes that, in an age where information is highlighted even more as our most important economic resource, the faster we can exchange information, the greater the multiplier effects on the economy.

From the farmer adjusting the prices of wheat to the commodities trader receiving and trading on new price information, high-speed interconnection gives these business people a competitive edge.

America is a mobile society, particularly over the past 60 years. Not only does our interstate highway system reflect that, but also our demand for mobile devices. The farmer and commodities trader I mentioned aren’t sitting at a desk all day. When you combine America’s need for information and mobility, it is only logical to conclude that we must manage our spectrum in order to optimize our ability to receive and send digital information rapidly and safely.

We are in the second decade of what promises to be an exciting 21st century. It’s time to get past debate that fails to optimize our political economy. It’s time to heed the President’s call to avoid regulation that creates an unnecessary burden on growth and competition. Let today be the new morning for our broadband union.

Obama: recognizing broadband potential is one thing. Directing where it should be deployed, quite another

Great blog post on The Hillicon Valley. President Obama briefly painted a rosy view of broadband’s possibilities in the State of the Union. He did not complete the picture of the State of the Broadband Union, however.

A firm endorsement of reduced regulatory barriers to broadband and expressing firmer support for first responder access to broadband would have sent a clearer message to the Federal Communications Commission. That message would be that continuing light touch regulation would be more in keeping with promoting innovation.

Obama did make a fairly clear statement that regulatory barriers cannot be made to stand in the way of progress on this issue. It’s high time the FCC take notice.

Auctioning off D-block for commercial use is the wrong move

Posted January 25th, 2011 in spectrum and tagged , , , , by Alton Drew

With seven hours left to what we expect to be a pivotal State of the Union address, I’m wondering what President Obama will have to say about one of our most important resources, spectrum. Like you, I don’t have a clue what will be in his speech, but if the media is correct, Mr. Obama will be sharing his vision on the economy and might make some reference to our telecommunications infrastructure.

I’m all for economic development. I make no excuses about being a capitalist. I am a realist, however, when it comes to our domestic defense and public safety. This is why I am troubled about the prospect that a bill to auction of 10Mhz of spectrum to commercial use versus public safety use troubles me.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 should have put our country on notice as to the necessity of maintaining a robust communications network for first responders. Inter-jurisdictional and inter-agency communications are key during an attack or natural disaster. Any first responder member will tell you that without superior communications any mission is put in fatal jeopardy.

I understand that additional spectrum is crucial to civilian broadband adoption, but it would be a tragic irony that our first responders would not be able to save a broadband using populace if responders couldn’t use precious spectrum to maintain unimpeded communications with each other.

Cliff Stearns is right about market failure test for net neutrality rules

Posted January 25th, 2011 in FCC, Government Regulation, Internet, net neutrality and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Lately it seems that when the Federal Communications Commission comes up with a rule, my first inclination is to get the money back that I spent on grad school. I learned in public administration that market failure was the primary reason for regulating markets. It made sense to me back then and I’m glad that concept makes sense to U.S. Representative Cliff Stearns today.

The Republican of Florida chairs the House Energy and Commerce Sub-committee on Oversight and Investigations. According to a recent blog post in The National Journal, Mr. Stearns would like the FCC to demonstrate the existence of market failure before regulating the Internet.

I can assure Mr. Stearns and my five readers that market failure was not addressed in the FCC’s net neutrality rules issued last month.

Failure to consider market failure is inconsistent with our nation’s overall view of the role of government and the regulation of the markets. A minimally intrusive government would first ask if supplier and consumer are able to make a market based on ability and willingness to buy and sell.

Less regulation means a smaller innovation divide

Posted January 24th, 2011 in African Americans, Broadband, economy, Government Regulation, Internet and tagged , by Alton Drew

I had the opportunity to attend the Congressional Internet Policy Forum sponsored by Innovation Generation and the Minority Media & Telecom Council. Given the rapid changes in technology, the high level of unemployment for African and Hispanic Americans, and our national productivity gap, this forum took on additional importance.

One thing that came to mind as I listened to the participants was the need for regulatory policies that would encourage investment in broadband as a means of production.

The Internet is about information exchange and at the forefront of information gathering and distribution are the increasing number of minority content producers. For example, I have contributed to two online publications that have started up within the past twelve months. One publication specializes in reporting on policies and political events that have a particular impact on the African American community. The other focuses on general news that impacts predominantly African American neighborhoods in southwest Atlanta, including the historic West End district.

As unemployment for blacks hovers at twice the national rate, the Internet offers opportunities for entrepreneurs in the information business. Their content cannot reach their natural markets if broadband access providers are burdened with unnecessary franchise fees and requirements. Costly requirements force access providers to deploy mainly in high income areas while lower income areas are put on a digital waiting list for service. In addition, costly regulatory requirements get passed on to consumers, in many instances to the very minority consumers we are trying to reach.

Hopefully policymakers will seriously consider the adage that less means more.