Sunday, March 14, 2010

National Broadband Plan - Performance Instead of Profit

When it comes to high-speed Internet access in the US, there are several common complaints:

  1. Broadband speeds seldom meet ISP marketing claims
  2. Lack of competition stifles improved performance and saturation
  3. Cost per KB is often higher than in other developed countries

In fact, when you look at some readily-available statistics, the disparity is glaring:

The FCC, as part of The Broadband Initiatives funded by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, has set up as part of an overall effort to improve high-speed Internet access.

One of the key features is an online speed test. Yes, I know it asks for your location information, but the government already knows who you are and where you live. The NSA has been reading your email for decades and knows of your proclivity toward adult sites that you are hiding (somewhat unsuccessfully) from your significant other, so get over that already.

By collecting these speed tests and associated geographic information, the FCC will be able to provide a comprehensive analysis of user-initiated performance indicators from a variety of locations, ISPs, and other key areas such day of the week, time of day, and so on.

Broadband providers, not surprisingly, aren't thrilled by this initiative. After years of acting as gatekeepers to high-speed access, creating artificial scarcity to keep their costs down and their profits up, ISPs are facing a two-pronged attack - an administration that believes lower-cost high performance access is critical to remaining competitive globally, and growing support for network neutrality.

Like all things governmental, this initiative will be running straight into the buzzsaw of special interests, corporate cash, and aggressive, misleading lobbying efforts. There's little that we, as users, can do about that, unless you're Warren Buffet, and I'm doubting that you are.

What you can do is to help provide a couple of rounds of ammunition for use in the coming skirmishes by way of your testing data and prolific communication of your views to your effectively-useless members of Congress.

The typical "We have the best health care in the world" crowd can't use that logic when it comes to broadband. Every available piece of data shows that at best we're toward the middle, somewhere between Poland and the Czech Republic. We're playing catch-up to Iceland, people!

Do your part. Run your speed test. Call and email your bought-and-paid-for elected officials. Be a general pain in the ass.

We have nothing to lose but throughput.

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