Rural Broadband Lags Because There Are No Fat Backhaul Profits
Part of the problem, it turns out, is that the FCC's decision to try to extend broadband to underserved areas got some wireline phone providers upset. They wanted all of the FCC's money for themselves, so they sued the FCC to stop the deployment of such broadband access. Eventually, the federal courts decided that the FCC could allocate the money this way, but that slowed down the process. So also did the fact that there's a lot of fraud involved with the Universal Service Fund money. Phone companies were popping up all over, slamming would-be users, applying for federal money and getting it. Only last year did the FCC implement ways to prevent this fraudSo I told Chen and some members of his panel about my findings when I visited communities across the Southeastern United States only to find the great dearth of broadband. I asked them why this was, given the support by the government, the obvious need and the wide-open market. Of course, once I got to Miami, broadband is everywhere. There's probably more network capacity in my hotel room than there is in some counties in central Florida through which I passed. The question obviously must be why it isn't everywhere else. Only Ron Mudry, president and CEO of TowerCloud had an answer. To get wireless broadband to a community, Mudry said, first there had to be broadband for backhaul. Without that, wireless broadband couldn't happen. He has a point. Then the obvious question for the carrier groups there, including the MEF, is: where's the broadband? Apparently there is no answer to that question. It hasn't happened because the carriers that provide it don't see an incentive, even with the FCC's funding. So I thought back to the scenes outside the train window and saw the hundreds of businesses, the farms, the residential areas all without broadband access. What, I wonder, is the incentive they need? These communities need access if they're to play a full role in the economy. The answer, apparently, is that they won't get the carriers rich enough quickly enough. It's not really about profits, but rather about big profits. And that's not really a good answer.
Perhaps it's no surprise that so many areas of the United States have no broadband service, wireless or otherwise. Fortunately, the reason I was riding on the Silver Meteor was to travel to Miami so I could speak at a conference called NetEvents, where this very subject would be addressed. Also speaking was Nan Chen, president of the Metro Ethernet Forum, which is made up of the folks that actually implement broadband in communities.