Fixed Wireless Under Fire as the Net Neutrality War Heats Up

Fixed wireless providers are now under attack as indications are that the upcoming FCC will be granting an exception for mobile broadband providers to manage their networks, but intend to put fixed wireless operators under the same restrictions on network management as wireline network operators.   Treating fiber and wireless the same is going to create massive problems, as fiber has much more potential capacity than wireless networks.   Fixed wireless has a lot more capacity than mobile wireless, or “toy broadband” as I like to call it.

Unfortunately, net neutrality regulation would not be necessary if we had more competition in a dynamic marketplace instead of the telco/cableco duopoly.    If a provider was causing problems for the service that a customer wanted to use, then the customer could just switch to a different provider.    That is the way it works in my area, where there are multiple providers to choose from, with different prices and levels of service.   Most of the US doesn’t have that choice.

Here is the text of the posting that I submitted (with mucho help from the template that WISPA put together).

———————–

My company, Vistabeam, provides Fixed Wireless broadband service in Western Nebraska, Eastern Wyoming and Northeast Colorado.  We rely primarily on unlicensed spectrum to deliver broadband services to consumers that have no [or few] broadband choices.  We built our network from scratch using devices authorized under Part 15 rules the FCC adopted to open up 900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, 3.65 GHz and 5 GHz spectrum for unlicensed or light licensed broadband devices.  Thanks to the Commission’s initiatives; consumers, businesses, and government services in the Vistabeam area can now get broadband service.  Many of my customers are telecommuters, students, farm workers or businesses in remote areas that need reliable broadband to compete in a global economy.

Vistabeam is concerned that certain Network Neutrality rules, if adopted, would severely and adversely affect our ability to continue to provide our customers with affordable Fixed Wireless broadband services.  It is our understanding that although mobile broadband will have a special set of rules, Fixed Wireless broadband will be lumped in with traditional wired services and be subject to a stricter set of rules.  We feel that the Network Neutrality rules imposed on Fixed Wireless broadband should be no more rigid than the rules that will apply to mobile wireless broadband providers.  The physics of wireless technology and delivery necessitate a relaxed set of rules for all wireless technologies.   Unfortunately, there is a limited amount of capacity on wireless networks of all kinds, and the reliability and usefulness of these networks degrades substantially if appropriate network management cannot be applied to their operation.

Many of the proposed rules will destroy our industry, our business and our customers’ Internet experience.  We believe wireless networks, either Fixed or mobile, will be unable to operate effectively if the definition of what constitutes “reasonable” network management practices does not account for the unique obstacles faced by small businesses with congested networks, bandwidth constraints, tower and middle-mile access limitations and a lack of investment capital.  For many households in rural America, this will mean the loss of broadband services entirely at a time when the country is seeking to accomplish ubiquitous coverage.

We need to face the reality that content delivery and demand is outpacing the technology and spectrum available to meet consumer demands, especially for Fixed Wireless networks that have limited spectrum, capacity and throughput.  Many regions of our country do not have the wireline broadband infrastructure available to meet this demand.  The past has proven that often times it is economically unfeasible to build new wireline infrastructure in rural areas; thus Fixed Wireless broadband is often the only economical delivery mechanism to deliver quality broadband services to those households that have been overlooked or bypassed by traditional wireline Internet providers.

It should not be taken lightly that the FCC was charged by the ARRA to write a National Broadband Plan so that all Americans could receive affordable broadband service.  If the proposed rules are approved, this one action alone would cripple this goal.   Why would the FCC protect one method of wireless broadband delivery and not apply the same standard to a similar technology that is in place and actively servicing many people and businesses today?  As Fixed Wireless technology improves, and more spectrum is opened to the Fixed Wireless industry, then a more relaxed set of Network Neutrality rules may be revisited in the future, but now is not the proper time.

In nearly every industry in the world, flow is managed, whether it is sewer systems, hydraulic fluid, natural gas, air traffic, the highway system, or countless other systems.  Flow management is essential for orderly delivery of a medium in a safe and effective process. Data is no different than anything mentioned above.  Without proper management, systems will fail and the data highways will be disrupted, leaving millions of businesses and residents without service.

Companies that are building and maintaining the data highways should be able to control and manage the traffic coming in and out of their network as they see fit, in order to effectively deliver the high levels of sustained traffic that are starting to clog the Internet.

The majority of Fixed Wireless networks have been completely funded with private funds and organic growth.    As Internet traffic grows exponentially,   Fixed Wireless broadband providers are seeing not only their middle mile transport costs increasing but last mile transport costs increasing exponentially as well.  Given the state of our current economy, we do not feel that we can pass these increased costs on to our customers.  This is not a time to increase regulation in order to satisfy the consumer thirst for more content delivered to their doorstep for the same cost that they are currently paying.  The economics just do not justify it.

Our company supports the positions taken by WISPA, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association in their Ex Parte presentation filed on December 10, 2010.

Spectrum and Charlie Brown’s Football

My good friend and WISPA co-founder John Scrivner recently shared an email on his frustration with the FCC and their predilection for spectrum auctions.

Now that they are talking about spectrum auctions for some of the TV Whitespace spectrum that will be vacated by TV Broadcasters, I kind of feel like Charlie Brown and the Football….

Gaining access to white spaces spectrum was one of the primary motivators for the formation of WISPA several years ago.   Entrepeneurial WISP operators need spectrum to deliver broadband, and WISPA has been working hard to build up a critical mass of WISPs, lobby the FCC and push our message that there needs to be unlicensed and lightly licensed access to the TV Whitespaces spectrum.   So hearing that the primary focus of the FCC will be on incentive auctions, I kind of feel like Charlie Brown after the football has been pulled away.

Personally, I always wanted to see Charlie Brown put his foot right into Lucy’s behind at least once.   Maybe he could have given her a Shatner Drop Kick.

Here is the text of John’s email.   Enjoy!

“I see our FCC is once again working the Spectrum Shell Game to the full advantage of the major cellcos. In an article titled, “FCC Moves to Improve Spectrum Availability and Use By Taking from Broadcasters” written by Jonathan Charnitski and Rahul Gaitonde, BroadbandBreakfast.com

See http://broadbandbreakfast.com/2010/12/fcc-moves-to-improve-spectrum-availability-and-use-by-taking-from-broadcasters/?utm_source=BroadbandCensus.com&utm_campaign=42330354bb-NA_120112_1_2010&utm_medium=email

It is like a bad dream for me seeing how the FCC seems to almost intentionally ignore WISPs as potential recipients of TV spectrum for broadband use after how long and hard we have lobbied for this precious and limited commodity.

In the article Genacowski is quoted as saying:

“Spectrum flexibility is smart policy,” he said. “Generally, we would consider all options to improve spectrum flexibility, but will focus on incentive auctions.”

You could easily replace his words with the following:

“We will take the hundreds of comments from WISPs over 6 years and flush them down the toilet because we would rather sell off the greatest public asset on earth, TV spectrum, to the highest bidder in huge geographic swaths to prevent anyone other than rich speculators and national carriers from gaining any of it”.

I cannot believe the rest of the world is oblivious to how terrible incentive auctions are to the future of all communications. It is one thing to have back room deals where the public is fleeced. It is quite another to do it right out in front of their eyes. The latter seems to work better in this case. Nobody seems to really mind that our government  is openly making cash deals “incentive auctions” to prevent all but the richest from making use of this valuable public asset. The idea of allowing individual tower licenses or having some spectrum set aside exclusively for small business use is obviously a terrible idea right?

What will we do next? Take our national parks away and auction them to the highest bidder? If we did it the way they do spectrum incentive auctions then each national park individually would be 1 license  That way only the richest companies in the US would control all the national parks. That makes a hell of a lot of sense doesn’t it? I could just spit on this FCC. Why is the world so blind to this? They are stealing from us in plain view. For all to see. And everyone is just letting them do it.

There is only one difference between the simile above regarding how incentive auctions for spectrum are like those of auctioning off national parks. That difference is that there is still much land in the US that individuals can afford to buy and use as a location to earn a living, build a home, raise a farm all without fear of others trespassing on their ground. In the US getting exclusive access to spectrum for multi-point communications is not possible through any means other than incentive auction. It is simply ludicrous. If you are not a wealthy speculator or a national carrier then it is nearly impossible to be part of the spectrum incentive auction game. The big boys know this. The FCC knows this. It is how they are going to make sure we lose.

The FCC claims they will also consider other spectrum policy. They already know we support Licensed Light. I want them to allow some Spectrum Homesteading. These are things we have talked to them about.

They do not seem to be part of the picture though do they? It is simple. The FCC does not give 2 $hit$ about WISPs who are struggling to make a go of things with no spectrum rights at all. They are angling to auction off ALL access to the TV bands before we have a chance to truly serve the public good as we have been begging to do for 6 years. They are playing the shell game and we are all just sitting here mesmerized, watching them shifting the shells around.

If I had my way our next FCC trip would be to send ALL of us to the front door at the FCC and march around with signs telling people to stop letting the FCC sell off our assets. I would march around and yell it to the top of my lungs. “Stop the stealing!” “They are selling away your property” “The FCC does not care about broadband” “Auctions are WRONG!”. I think I would look pretty funny out there doing this by myself though. Everyone else just seems to be too busy watching the shells move around the table to care.”

Fixed Wireless Surpassing DSL in Rural Areas? Yup!

I made a point during a speaking engagement at the Broadband Expo about how fixed wireless providers should not be afraid of DSL deployments, and should instead be focusing on “kicking DSL’s ass” with better speeds and service.   For the early WISPs, DSL coming into town was usually a bad sign as DSL was more reliable and capable of higher speeds.   No more.   While fixed wireless technology has evolved quickly into a reliable and much faster platform for broadband, DSL has languished, with little new evolution and dependency on the now obsolete copper plant limiting its utility.

An email that I received this morning, led me to a link that had a surprising piece of evidence that DSL is slipping.   This survey on broadband use in the State of Nebraska shows that wireless has more penetration that DSL for broadband in the state – 28% for wireless and 25% for DSL.

Keep it up WISPs!

WISPA Operator of the Year Newspaper Article

Vistabeam was recently honored as the WISPA Operator of the Year for 2010.   Here is an article from the Scottsbluff StarHerald about Vistabeam and how we have built the business.

StarHerald WOOTY Article

WISP Ad

We are rolling out a new advertising campaign focusing on the rural areas we serve.   I’m very happy with the direction that it is taking so far.

Fixing Our Energy System from the Bottom Up

I’m going off-topic today from broadband, but I hope that you enjoy the diversion!

Just across the border from me and into Wyoming, there is a company that has designed an interesting vertical-axis wind turbine.   From the traditional industrial standpoint, the v-axis turbines are inferior to the 300′ tall, giant props that surround it in the windy prairie.    They are short and squat, don’t get up into the really high wind points and don’t produce quite as much power as the big ones.   The company that has created them has a few small scale projects in third world areas that have gone well, but they can’t find any traction in the US because of a shortage of funding and too many restrictions on what can and can’t be connected to our power grid.

Hearing of a colleague’s client and their innovations with hydrogen, combined with the frustration of being able to fund ongoing development in a hostile market, reminded me of the h-axis turbines and how these two particular items could be saved and eventually adapted to the point where the existing energy industries could be turned on their heads.

Open Source them.

The v-axis turbines are not as efficient as the current standard wind turbines.   However, they could be easily built by local contractors (the blades can be done at a machine shop and the cement infrastructure is fairly simple), maintenance is much cheaper (the generator and all electronics are at the base), they have long lifetimes (100+ years vs. 30 years for big mills) and they would cost about 5% to put up compared to a standard turbine.   The environmental impact is lower (both in the construction and the ongoing service) and they can be deployed in self-reinforcing configurations that maximize the amount of power available at a wind site.    If the design was open sourced, there would be an army of engineers working on improvements (no need for funding for that), and a new industry consisting of turbine designers, windfarm planners, utility contractors and system maintenance contractors would explode overnight.   Think of all the non-outsourceable jobs that would be created, both here and abroad.

I know little about the hydrogen device, but my guess is that there are probably several pieces of their design portfolio that could be released to the world under creative commons, and that this would spur a tremendous amount of bottom-up innovation from all corners of the world.

I have also heard a few engineers talking about the potential for ethanol production from sweet sorghum, a crop that requires far fewer energy inputs to raise and harvest than corn, and does not require the same complex infrastructure (you basically press out the sugar and let it ferment).    It also takes less water, but does produce more product if more water is available.

It would be easy to open source both of these right now – get the Gates Foundation (or some comparable) to buy the companies, patents and licenses, release them to the creative commons and seed a development team to manage each project.   The gift of nearly unlimited, clean energy production and millions of jobs would do far more for the advancement of humankind than nearly any other possible project.

The tricky side is on the delivery and integration of these items into the current infrastructure.   The only practical way I can envision is municipal power entities that band together to invest in these new inputs, and make themselves independent of the current power grid infrastructures (MicroPower).   The current generation systems would end up becoming backups – we turn our electrical grid into a “hybrid”, where the fossil fuel based systems only come online when extra or backup power is needed.   Right now, there is little or no incentive for this kind of change.   If a municipal power entity drops the contracted amount that they pay the big generation companies, they pay a higher rate for less energy so that the generation company can maintain their monopoly profits.   Outside the US, there are probably a different set of hurdles – and some places where this kind of deployment would be dead simple due to the lack of any kind of infrastructure at all.

If we are going to solve our energy problems, something like this is going to have to happen.

Nebraska Farm Kid Does Good

One of my fellow Nebraskans recently stepped down from his position at a cutting edge Internet company.   Seeing his name again reminded me of the incredible impact that one person can have on our lives.   I can trace my roots in the Internet industry back to a single encounter in 1993 that changed my life forever.    To tell this story, I have to take you back in time, when the dialup modem was still an expensive option on personal computers, a time…

Before the Internet.

It was the summer of 1993.   I had graduated in December of ’92 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and no real desire to find employment in that field, so I moved back to my hometown and started work as a commodities broker.   I did very well on my broker’s test and was competent, but did not have a very good mindset for the work.    The financial and commodity markets looked like a giant casino to me, and it wasn’t very long before I became frustrated with the work.

While in college, I had taken a couple of classes in video production and worked summers at the local tv station running cameras.   I did well in the classes and enjoyed working with video and early computer based video systems like the Video Toaster, so I started to look into the possibility of setting up my own video production business.     Nowadays, I could spend a few hours on Google researching cameras, business models and promotion methods, then plug into a group of like-minded folks and learn as much as possible from them.   Back in 1993, you bought a magazine about the subject you were interested in, so I bought a copy of “Video” magazine at a newsstand and read it cover to cover to try and figure out how to create this business.

Some of you might remember publications of yesteryear, like Byte Magazine, that had a big card in the back with numbers on it.   Each advertisement in the magazine had a little number at the bottom.  If you wanted to get more information about a product, you could circle the numbers and send the card in.   A few weeks later, those companies would start sending you information about their products.   When I was a 12 year old farm kid, the highlight of my week was getting mail with pictures and information about CP/M computers and ads for Kaypro portables.    I was a serious farmnerd, but I digress.

The “Video” magazine that I had purchased had a customer inquiry card in the back.   I went through the ads and circled several that had to do with cameras and editing equipment and other such items.   I also came across an ad with the heading “Make $10,000/month With Your Video Equipment”.   The ad was pretty basic, with just the teaser headline and an address to contact.   I circled the number, and figured there was nothing to lose by seeing what this was all about.

A couple of weeks later, I started getting my information back.   Interspersed with the camera and equipment literature was an 8 page letter about how this guy was making all of this money with his video equipment by making how-to videos.    The letter caught my attention and soon I was focused on the possibilities that it presented.   The letter as a solicitation to purchase a series of videos  and a subscription to “The Video Letter” which was a monthly publication put out by a dude in Arkansas who made videos.    I believe the cost of the package was around $200 or so, and I figured I would take a shot and get it.

I ordered the package and received it a couple weeks later.   The material was pretty good, but it was a little bit weird.   The production values were pretty basic, and the producer’s main claim to fame was that he had made a video on how to build your own satellite descrambler box, which ended up selling several thousand copies at $50/copy.   Never mind that it was illegal to build a descrambler – he just videotaped the guys that were doing it and sold the information, which was apparently not illegal.    The gist of his plan – the “$10,000/month with your video equipment” was that by making a series of “How-To” videos, and selling them for $50 each you would do the work once and get paid for it many times over.    I could see some possibilities with this line of thinking, but I had a lot of questions and wanted to get some answers – this was before Google, usergroups and listservs, so I was going to have to talk to a real, live person.

To my surprise, the inquiry address on my package was in Central City, Nebraska.   That was several hours away from Scottsbluff, but I had to take a business trip to Grand Island later in the summer and decided to contact the guy who I had bought the package from.   The guy was a little bit weird on the phone, as he didn’t seem to know anything about video production and was kind of reluctant to have me stop by.   I was persistent, and he finally agreed to meet with me at his parent’s farm near Central City.

When I finally met him, it was kind of like the scene in the Wizard of Oz when the almighty wizard turns out to be the guy behind the curtain.   I was expecting to find this successful guru of video production and marketing, but instead I found a guy who was my age, living in his parent’s basement and selling packages of “how-to” information on about 25 different subjects.    He would place ads in “niche” magazines, use direct mail to followup and sell his information packages, and collect about $190 in profit for each $200 package.  This was kind of interesting, but I was disappointed to find out that he didn’t really know anything about video production.

Disheartened, I gave up on learning anything about video production and our conversation turned to computers.   After about five minutes, he stopped me and said “Dude, you really need to get online!”   I wasn’t sure what he was talking about.   “You mean, like Prodigy?” I asked.   “Way better,” he said as he cranked up his modem, “check this out!”   And over the next hour he showed me newsgroups, gopher, Delphi, CompuServe and America Online.   He did more than just show me, he also explained why this kind of connectivity was so important and how it was going to revolutionize the way people interact and how marketing would completely change.   It was clear that he had a vision of how the world could change with the spread of this kind of connectivity and interaction.   Instead of being disappointed, I left our meeting energized and excited about the future, and wondering how I could get involved in this ‘Online’ thing.

I went back to Scottsbluff and bought a brand new, 486sx computer with a 14.4k modem, subscribed to AOL, Compuserve and Delphi, and immersed myself in all things online.   At first, I focused mostly on using it to help further my video production business.   I did end up making a “how-to” video with one of my customers from the commodities office – “Raising Cashmere Goats for Fun and Profit” – and I actually made $7500 in sales from the video over the next couple of years.   Customer #1 for that video was a programmer from Digital Equipment Corporation, who had found it on an alt.goats newsgroup.   Strange, but true.

In January 1995, I quit the commodities office and moved to Fort Collins, Colorado to pursue my video production business.   While in Fort Collins, I decided to get involved in a group called “FortNet” which was a community ISP, using bandwidth and phone lines donated from Qwest, servers donated by Hewlett/Packard and volunteers from the local college.   I went to the first meeting and sat quietly in the back of the room, listening and not quite understanding the “unixspeak” of the computer science majors and systems analyst types around me.  They were pretty excited about a new program called Mosaic, and I had read about that in a computer magazine.  When the Q&A session at the end of the meeting started, I raised my hand and asked “What is the command to download Mosaic?”   Hundreds of eyes rolled, and a few snickers came out.   Finally a guy sitting a couple of chairs away from me sighed and said “sz”.   I said “Thank you” – went home and downloaded Mosaic and spent a large portion of the next month absorbing as much as my 14.4 modem would download.

Within a couple of months, I had learned enough to hang with the unixspeakers and by the end of the year I was an assistant sysadmin despite my lack of formal background.   I had started doing some web page design work and even built my own linux box out of old PC parts so I could host my own websites.   I stayed in touch with my friend who had originally told me to “get online” as he moved on from direct mail to web page hosting and design.    He called me out of the blue one day and asked if I wanted to buy his hosting business, as he was heading to California.   I had my money tied up in video equipment at the time, so I was not able to buy his business, but I did wish him good luck in California.

By the summer of 1996, I gave up on the video production business.   Fort Collins was an expensive place to live, I didn’t know many people and my friends were all in Scottsbluff, so I moved home.   After driving a payloader and working cattle at my father’s feedlot for a few months, I decided to start an ISP.   My dad and three of his friends put in enough money to start an ISP/computer store and I put my efforts into making it work.   After a year, we dropped the computer sales and focused on the ISP.   By end of 2000, the ISP had 3500 dialup subscribers, and another 200 dsl and wireless customers.   For a rural area, this was a very successful business and we sold it very close to the peak of the market in November 2001.

I stayed with the company that bought my first ISP for a couple of years, then decided to leave and do my own thing.   I started another ISP, this time focusing primarily on wireless broadband.   Despite some rough patches here and there, it has also been successful, and we are providing service to over 2000 customers in some very rural areas.

Since selling my first ISP, I had thought to myself that I had done pretty good for a dumb farm kid.   But there is another one out there who has done even better.   One day, as I was going through a Wired magazine, I came across an interesting interview.   The subject of the interview mentioned his background growing up on a farm in Nebraska, and after checking out the picture, I realized that I had come across my old friend once again.   His trek to California had taken him to some strange and amazing places, from the lowest of the lows – where he spent several months with no money, no support and little more than faith to keep him going – to the sale of his company for millions to Google.   Not one to rest on his laurels, he went right back to work and helped to create a social networking powerhouse.    Last month he stepped down as CEO and I hope that he enjoys his time with his family.

Evan Williams, thanks for telling me to “get online!”   I am eagerly awaiting your next big idea.

Katrina, Five Years Later

It is now 5 years since Katrina hit New Orleans and changed the face of the Gulf Coast forever.   One of the good things that came out of this disaster was the outstanding effort by wireless ISPs that came together to provide Internet and phone services to thousands of refugees from the storm.    Mac Dearman stood at the center of that effort.

I called Mac the day after Katrina hit to check in on him and see how bad off he had it.   Other than a little damage, his network was in good shape.   I called a couple of days later, and he told me stories about the refugees of the storm, churches and makeshift shelters filled to overflowing with people that had nothing more than the clothes on the backs.   He and his employees had been working non-stop to put in Internet connections and voip phones at the shelters so that the people there would be able to contact their loved ones and start the process of applying for federal help.    I could tell from the tone in his voice that he was completely worn out, but could not stop because this work had to be done.

I got on a plane the next morning and headed down to help in any way that I could.

Within two days after I arrived, there were at least 30 people camped out at Mac’s farm near Rayville, Louisiana and semi loads of donated equipment had arrived that allowed us to put Internet, VOIP phones and computers at nearly every shelter in Mac’s service area.   I had to leave after a week, but Mac took his volunteer army of WISPs down to the Bay St. Louis and Gulfport areas along the coast and kept going until the next spring.

It was truly an amazing effort, done with no government support, purely with volunteer help and donated equipment.   The campaign to help people after Katrina was a pinnacle moment of the infant WISP industry, and a perfect illustration of the ability of WISPs to provide critical services quickly, efficiently and professionally.

Thank you Mac, and thanks to all of the volunteers that were able to take the time to help him out.   WISPs everywhere owe you a debt of gratitude.

More reading:

http://www.redherring.com/Home/15053

http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/10/03/mac.dearman/

Do We Really Need 100meg To Our Homes?

(This was part of an email discussion on Gordon Cook’s Arch-Econ list, slightly modified for your blogging pleasure)

The US Broadband network is “good enough” to be satisfactory for nearly every practical purpose.   1 to 2meg speeds with decent latency is good enough for voip, telecommuting, vpn networks and 99% of the practical uses for a broadband connection.   It is not quite fast enough to do full screen, full motion videoconferencing and it is not quite practical enough to deliver streaming HD Video content, and that is about it.

Case in point – I have a 100meg fiber connection at my office.   It is great for videoconferencing and downloading large files, but 99.99% of the time, I don’t need that much bandwidth.   I can do pretty much anything I need to do on my 4meg home connection.   My five year old pickup gets me where I need to go – from a practical standpoint it has the same utility as a new pickup – or a Ferrari for that matter.   Not everyone needs a Ferrari to get to work.

More bandwidth is required for the content companies to continue to feed garbage to zombie consumers on the other side, that is the real motivation for higher speeds.   Looks like it has done a lot of good for South Korea, where an entire generation of kids are turning into gaming zombies on the other ends of their world class broadband connections.   http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/13/internet-addiction-south-korea.   Several years ago, I had an employee that I was pretty sure had some kind of a drug habit.   He was habitually late, seemed to be constantly overstressed and was always making mistakes in his work.   After watching his work habits degrade over a period of 45 days, I stopped by my NOC at 4am on a Sunday morning and found him camped out there playing Everquest.   He had been there since 7pm on Friday night, fueled by cigarettes, Mountain Dew and pizza.    I have several friends who have similar problems controlling their gaming habits, and I have had my own issues with it.

Secondly, far too few people in the fields of law, academia and policy have enough appreciation for the fact that networks are not free.   It costs money to build, maintain and expand networks and there has to be an appropriate return for the companies that maintain these networks, and that is not understood very well by people who plug their computer in and just get their connectivity without thinking about where it comes from.   Spend a week in my shoes and you might have a little different appreciation for the effort needed to deliver broadband.   I am just as disgusted as anyone else that AT&T, Verizon et.al are banking enormous profits on their networks when they should be putting that back in to reinvestment, but the real problem is that we don’t have competition that forces them to reinvest.

I am not against better broadband networks for the US, but I am against misplaced allocation of financial resources in the form of the stimulus program and USF subsidies to telcos that claim they are needed to improve our broadband standing in the world.    We need more spectrum and fewer restriction on what independent operators can or can’t do with their networks.   We also need patience – its going to take time to get fiber to every home and we should continue to expand access to “good enough” networks to the people who don’t have any alternatives.

My preference is to continue building toward the ultimate goal of broadband abundance, but to do it in a financially responsible way that encourages more competition and less government assistance.   I recognize that faster broadband has benefits, but those benefits are trivial compared to the problems of climate change, energy resources and food production.   Broadband doesn’t benefit anyone if that person can’t eat, doesn’t have electricity to run their computer or happens to be dead.  That is my reasoning as to why broadband access should not be so high on the list of priorities.

Meet me in St. Louis – at the WISPA Regional Meeting

Today I am settling in at the Renaissance Hotel in St. Louis for the WISPA Regional Show. What a great event this is going to be. This is the first time in a long time that there has been a gathering of WISPs and WISP vendors of this size. It is great to see many of my old long time WISP friends here, including John Scrivner, Rick Harnish, Mac Dearman, Patrick Leary, Jack Unger, journalist Alex Goldman and a great group of vendors. We kick off tonight with a pre-registration party, then tomorrow we will have what should be an awesome presentation with the “Pioneers and Visionaries” of the Wireless Industry, a lunch keynote with Michael Calabrese from the New America Foundation and three tracks of WISP content. Thursday kicks off with a WISPA Board meeting – the first one where the board will meet in person instead of online – and then keynotes from Peter Stanforth of Spectrum Bridge and Julius Knapp, the FCC OET Chief. It’s going to be a great event!