Home rule

Governments around the world have awakened to the importance of a national broadband communications infrastructure. How each government defines “broadband” and the role fiber to the home and business should play illustrate its competitive vision and what it will take to make that vision a reality.

The Australian government has set the most salient example. After articulating a vision of the form the country's National Broadband Network should take�and rebuffing the incumbent carrier Telstra's attempt to redefine that vision on its own terms�Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and an independent panel of experts made the stunning decision to have the government run the build-out program itself.

The decision has engendered an expected level of controversy. But the government should be commended for refusing to compromise on what it feels the country requires�and for making fiber to the home the de facto approach to broadband provision.

Meanwhile, the UK government has issued a report called “Digital Britain” that sets forth its notion of how the UK will proceed into the broadband future. However, its immediate goal of 2 Mbps to the majority of UK homesâ��a transmission rate that copper-based infrastructure can supportâ��appears too timid in comparison to the fiber-based services now on offer elsewhere in Europe and around the globe.

Which brings us to the United States. The Obama Administration's broadband stimulus package, coupled with prodding the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) into finally developing a national broadband plan, appears on its face to be a step in the right direction. However, I worry whether that step will turn into a stumble. In its hurry to get money pumped into the economy, the Obama Administration has put the development of the national broadband strategy and the dispersal of funds on parallel tracks. It thus appears that much of the money will be committed before the FCC gets around to even the most fundamental elements of the plan, such as defining what “broadband” means.

The administration's goal is laudable; however, it appears that haste will once again make waste before the country is truly moving in the right direction.

Stephen M. Hardy
Editorial Director & Associate Publisher
stephenh@pennwell.com

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