A discussion on one of my wireless ISP mailling lists caught my attention and I thought it was worth sharing.
On Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 11:28 PM, Ken Hohhof wrote:
So the government has to foster development of killer apps that need >100
—The response from my good friend John Scrivner…
I guess that’s one way to force government backed fiber down everyone’s throat. I can see it now. They’ll start telling Grandma and Grandpa in a few years that if they want their social security check they have to apply from an application running at 1 Gbps or else they need not apply. That would be one “killer” app for sure!
I have a problem with committing government and educational resources to discover new and innovative ways to consume more bandwidth when applications of this nature are going to be limited to a subset of our population and businesses. Let those people who have access figure out their own ways of taking advantage of their connectivity. Projects with this kind of a focus are putting the cart way in front of the horse. I sit in a place where a 100meg connection costs me $3500/month and a gigabit will cost $9000-$10000/month. The focus should be on dropping that cost and opening up fiber networks so that their true value can be unlocked and distributed to everyone in a way that is not dependent on government subsidy or regulation.
I feel that the twin pushes for “fiber everywhere” and cloud computing are dangerous to our society as a whole because of the culture of dependency that they foster. In a vacuum, fiber everywhere is not a bad idea, but in the real world it doesn’t make fiscal or practical sense. While a company like Google can do a one-off project like Kansas City, they cannot or do not take on the bigger challenge of putting that kind of connectivity into every village center in the US, and opening up access to that kind of connectivity to innovative providers who can deliver to the last mile. Instead, we have an entire culture of policymakers pushing for more government subsidy for telecom and broadband deployment that focuses on baubles like 4G (which is basically a toy), ultramodern but closed R&E networks that only benefit academia and maintenance of the money flow to the same telcos that have been holding us back. The Google Kansas City project is like a carrot held in front of a draft horse to keep the public distracted from pushing for policy changes that would improve the universal availability of better broadband at affordable prices.
Cloud computing is providing much of the money and motivation behind the efforts of so many individuals and groups that are pushing the idea of ultrabroadband. I don’t have a problem with cloud computing on its own, but becoming dependent on any outside resource of that nature runs counter to the ideal of self-reliance and resilient communities. I am an old school ISP, so I run my own servers and will not outsource critical pieces of my service to the cloud where it can be subject to the whims of an outside entity. That is my choice as a businessman and others are free to make those decisions on their own. I am fairly disgusted by the wholesale movement of our educational institutions away from the operations and maintenance of their own IT resources to cloud providers. Those institutions may be saving money now, but they are forgoing the educational opportunities for students and faculty to gain valuable operational experience on their own systems. They are also sacrificing local employment opportunities to enrich cloud providers. Cloud computing also weakens the resiliency of our computing infrastructure by serving as a huge target for disruptive conduct. Witness the regular breaches of corporate data and personal financial information. Bad actors within a cloud computing provider have access to highly sensitive information about businesses and people. Privacy policies and encryption are one thing, but in the end there are people in these positions of access and power – and people are corruptible.
We are duplicating the “too big to fail” philosophy that is proving to be a massive fail in our financial system by overemphasizing the need for ultrabroadband and cloud computing. I am much more interested in maintaining resilient systems that can stand on their own and improving the applications that are successful on our current broadband infrastructure while working toward the goal of universal broadband access even if that access falls short of ultrabroadband.
The first 1meg of broadband is far more important than the last 99.