Broadband in America - Fat Pipes for Old Glory a Questionable Green Plan
Image by Over Yonder
With 4 a's and 3 b's in a total of 14 letters, The phrase "Obama Broadband" has a gentle, rolling hills kind of feel that is fun to say and think for its literary value alone. And it's fitting too; as the administration is about to pour $8 billion into U.S. broadband Internet networks across the country, it appears that most of new lines will be used to digitally light up Rural America. Dig some ditches, pull some wire and the job will be done but it's money down the bowl - the U.S. hinterlands don't need broadband. Find out why.
Why Rural Broadband is PopularThe explanation for Wiring the Countryside can be explained in a few short words - akin to the Eisenhower Interstate project, the U.S. is going to engage in a massive network build-out to improve the lives of millions of Americans, create jobs, allow the nation to compete in the 21st century, and provide equal access to all. The program is so topically sans-cerebellum that it's obvious; one would suppose that any initiative that mirrors a grandiose, post-wartime infrastructure project with automobiles, coupled with the milking of any residual dot.com magic would be. These are things that Americans understand and want, and the public meetings that are thrown in regarding how the funds are disbursed are merely play-pretend-castle kind of stuff to suggest that our notions of progress have changed.
Broadband and Notions of ProgressBut our notions of progress haven't changed. As the New York Times relates, The U.S. is pretty far down the pole in broadband speeds worldwide for a good reason - our population density is low, and it's simply too expensive to maintain sparse networks of this type. Much like our automobiles and highway policy, adding broadband to the benefits of country living will simply encourage moving more stuff into the countryside - people, products, businesses, etc. Is providing these ever more expensive and difficult to maintain rural services green policy? It's not; much like the huge highway system that has encouraged nothing but sprawl and got us into a whole bunch of environmental messes, rural broadband will abet this trend - in fact, it's merely a follow-on to the process.
The Use of BroadbandLastly, and in the correct place politically, is the notion of what our fellow Americans are going to do with their newfound connectivity. Oh, there are the familiar arguments on the future benefits of broadband - telemedicine, for example, and video telepresence technology where a shimmering Darth Sidious-like figure appears in the room before you, but such arguments always seem to be reaching and wanting. Perhaps education will be more of a focus, but existing Internet traffic patterns suggest that 10 percent of the new broadband stream will be used to watch You Tube and that somewhere between 30 and 80 percent of the remaining traffic will be used for peer to peer networks - essentially file, music and video piracy. No mistake, Obama Broadband is fun to say but seems primarily designed for pure entertainment value.Washington Post| New York TimesMore on BroadbandGreen BroadbandBills on TelecommutingEnergy Efficiency Leads Obama Plan