A dire need for broadband

When he was at the Federal Communications Commission, Blair Levin oversaw the development of a national broadband plan. Today, director of Gig.U., Levin writes that the nation has no plan for improving and increasing our broadband capacity.

We're lagging behind much of the rest of the world. "International studies on wireline bandwidth use differ," he said, "but all suggest we are mid-tier at best, and declining. No American communities are hubs of the kind of world-leading bandwidth sufficient to birth big-bandwidth businesses. Instead, those communities now exist in other countries."

What America needs is both "a strategic bandwidth advantage and a 'psychology of bandwidth abundance'." In other words, we need both the physical plant, and a belief in it that helps make innovation not only possible, but probable. Instead, "For most Americans, five years from now, the best network available to them will be the same network they have today."

Many Americans, both innovators and consumers, are content to see improvements in higher-capacity wireless. But this, says Levin, is shortsighted.

"While we are enjoying a wireless upgrade, only a wired connection can provide the bandwidth necessary for 'Big Bandwidth' services. When it comes to wireline access to the Internet, instead of discussing upgrades, we are discussing bandwidth caps, tiers and rising prices. Instead of witnessing investment for growth, we are witnessing harvesting for dividends."

But, he said, there are alternatives to the present impasse. "Stimulating an upgrade does not require massive new government funding or regulation." Levin cites the experience of his own project, Gig.U., or The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project. Gig.U. , "has catalyzed over $200 million for private efforts to build gigabit hubs in nearly a dozen communities across the country, as well as a project to bring a 25X+ upgrade to hundreds of communities in rural America."

If America is to remain a serious tech competitor, we need to invest in upgrading our high-speed wired as well as wireless networks.

Gig.U. website

Big Bandwidth: Unlocking a New Competitive Advantage (Allthingsd.com, Jul. 27, 2012)