A new FCC initiative promises to accelerate the delivery of 1 Gbps connections to all fifty states by 2015, though the plan upon closer inspection appears to be another hollow agency puppet show. FCC boss Julius Genachowski received ample press attention last week by proclaiming that the FCC was spearheading a new agency program that would bring 1 Gbps connections to all fifty states in just two years. Few stopped applauding long enough to notice the plan's hollow core.
In a press statement
, the FCC announced their new "gigabit city challenge" would help foster development of ultra-high speed connections, spurring national innovation and driving business development nationwide. According to the FCC, only 42 communities in 14 states are served by ultra-high-speed fiber Internet providers.
Genachowski pitched his initiative in a guest editorial over at Forbes
, in which the FCC boss "challenges" the industry to get moving:
I challenge broadband providers and local leaders to bring at least one gigabit testbed community to all 50 states by 2015. The FCC will actively engage with broadband providers and community leaders to help achieve this goal, including by launching a clearinghouse for best practices on speeding gigabit deployment. America led the 20th century economy because we led the world in innovation.
While this all sounds great on the surface (ooh a clearinghouse!
), the FCC is once again putting on an empty stage play here. While it's true that the scattered 1 Gbps connection options that exist in this country today exist thanks to the FCC -- ironically it's the FCC's failures that are to thank for creating them. The agency has repeatedly
failed to foster competition and stand up to incumbent operators, forcing neighborhoods to take things into their own hands (often quite painfully and at great cost) without the FCC's help.
Municipal broadband operations, for example, have bubbled up because of a lack of competition in the market. Lafayette, Louisiana had to fight tooth and nail
against the sleazy antics of both BellSouth (AT&T) and Cox, who tried like hell to prevent the service from ever happening. Politicians were a no show during the entirety of that struggle, unless they were busy helping incumbent carriers shut these services down. The same can be said for other municipal operations around the country, from Chattanooga, Tennessee
to Lake County, Minnesota
Google Fiber, like municipal deployments, wouldn't exist without the lack of competition the FCC's policy failures helped create.
, like municipal deployments, similarly wouldn't exist without the lack of competition the FCC's policy failures helped create. That a search giant was forced to enter the United States broadband market because United States competition was so pathetic speaks volumes. Unfortunately, Google's symmetrical 1 Gbps for $70 connections will likely only expand into a small handful of additional cities outside of Kansas City.
While existing 1 Gbps services emerged despite
the FCC, the 1 Gbps ball is similarly being moved forward without the FCC's help or "challenges." Blair Levin's Gigabit Squared, which we covered last May
, is already busily partnering with universities and anchor communities to help speed up the deployment of 1 Gbps connections. This is great news for University anchor communities, but the initiative won't do much for the tens of millions of consumers stuck on sub 3 Mbps DSL or immensely-overpriced cable due to limited competition.
The combination of Google Fiber, Gigabit Nation, and municipal fiber deployments should bring 1 Gbps to tiny portions of all fifty states in the next two years without the FCC doing a thing. This kind of hollow-centered automatically self-fulfilling FCC "goal" is not new for Genachowski's FCC.
So before we pat Genachowski on the back for "aiming high," it's important to note his goal is yet another empty promise designed to make the chairman look superficially competent before he hops off to his next higher-paying job at Silicon Valley or at a DC think tank.
Genachowski's FCC now has a long history of setting already-achieved or easily-achieved goals just to score easy political points. The FCC's national broadband plan
(drafted by Levin) called for 100 million homes to get 100 Mbps speeds sometime in the next twenty years, something already soon accomplished by expected cable deployments of DOCSIS 3.0 technology. Genachowski and the Obama administration also promised 98% coverage of 4G wireless technologies, something that had actually already occurred
without the FCC lifting a finger.
So before we pat Genachowski on the back for "aiming high," it's important to note his goal is yet another empty promise designed to make the chairman look superficially competent before he hops off to his next higher-paying job in Silicon Valley or at a DC think tank. The reality is that his tenure at the FCC has been a significant failure
, pockmarked by his unwillingness to address competition, skyrocketing broadband prices, anti-competitive implementation of usage caps, unreliable meters
and predatory below the line fee price gouging
Promising 1 Gbps to a few scattered neighborhoods (already in the process of getting them without the FCC's help) changes none of this.