Building Nationwide Broadband May Jump Start Jobs

by Don Willmott

The biggest news out of Washington last week not about health care
was about the Internet. The FCC
finally released its long-awaited nationwide
broadband plan
, a sweeping initiative to provide – among other things – 100
megabit-per-second Internet access to 100 million people by 2020. The FCC also
proposes to deliver 1-gigabit-per-second access to places like schools,
libraries and government buildings. "The national broadband plan is a 21st-century
roadmap to spur economic growth and investment, create jobs, educate our
children, protect our citizens, and engage in our democracy," said FCC
Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Broadband BuildingAs you look over the executive
summary
, it’s important to remind yourself how tough this task is going to
be. Look at Korea or the Netherlands,
two of the most wired countries on the planet. Both are small in land area.
Both are mostly urban. Both have limited competition among telecom companies.
Both have years of government initiatives already in effect. America can play catch-up in policy, but the
bigger challenge is running fiber to the farms of Nebraska
or planting satellite dishes that actually work in the snowy mountains of Montana.

Amazingly, the government contends that this massive
multi-billion-dollar plan won’t cost taxpayers a cent. Instead, it will be
funded by new auctions of unused airwave spectrums and by private investment. I
don’t believe that for a second, but like most observers in the tech arena, I
say full speed ahead. Not only for all the usual reasons – increased American
productivity, better communication, better global competitiveness, improved
education – but also because I smell jobs.

The government does, too. That’s why this plan itself was
funded by stimulus money. The metaphorical connection is clear: Building the
"information superhighway" we’ve always talked about will be the 21st-century
equivalent of the 1950s push to build the interstate highway system, complete
with the justifications that at least part of the impetus has to do with our
very national security.

Former FCC Chairman Reed
Hundt
wrote in an
op-ed piece
last week: "Every time the FCC opens the door to a new
network competing against existing networks or to any new business opportunity,
it is inevitably endorsing new hiring by the new business." That was
certainly true when cell phone use blasted off in the mid ’90s and when ISPs
proliferated in the late ’90s. Hundreds of thousands of new jobs were created. Hunt
also pointed out that, "From 1997 to 2007, with essentially zero federal
help in terms of appropriations or tax breaks, investors pumped $850 billion into
new communication networks¿. More than one-fifth of the 21 million jobs created
in the ’90s were directly or indirectly derived from the information and
communications revolution."

Hundt’s not alone in his enthusiasm. AT&T, Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Vonage
all weighed in with messages of support
for the plan. In fact, one of the few dissenters I could find was current FCC
commissioner Robert McDowell, a Bush
appointee who said, in reference to one aspect of the plan that would dictate how
future set-top boxes are designed: "I caution the commission to tread
gingerly. "Technological mandates by the government almost never result in
robust innovation."

He’s probably right, but this is one of those projects that
remind what government is ultimately for: To do for the people what the people
can’t do for themselves, like build highways – or information superhighways. As
Hundt said, the idea isn’t ultimately to create government jobs, but to create
private-sector jobs that build on the new technological infrastructure. What
would a 25-fold improvement in data throughput mean for innovation and jobs?
Who really knows? We’ll find out someday. The question is whether we can all
agree that we want that someday to come sooner rather than later.

 

Comments

6 Responses to “Building Nationwide Broadband May Jump Start Jobs”

March 25, 2010 at 7:34 am, RJ Morey said:

Don, Some of that fibre backbone is already in place. I know because I helped Alcatel, Fujitsu, MCI, MCI/Worldcom, NorTel, WilTel, and Worldcom build and provision it from 1995 thru 2001 until the bottom fell out of the backbone industry after 9/11. Most of that backbone is OC-48 and OC-192, with some of it using Alcatel 80 channel/terrabyte and Fujitsu 176 channel/terrabyte Flashwave OADM/OADX systems. The teams I was on ran fibre from Chicago down through St. Louis and Memphis, over to Central and West Texas, Southern New Mexico, up through Arizona, Southern Nevada, over to LA, up through Central California, Oregon, and Washington, and back again to Chicago. I also built and provisioned backbone pieces in rural Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Virginia, West Virginia, and throughout the East and Gulf Coast areas (both metro and rural). The interconnects are there, the different companies just need to work out the details for sharing the backbone. And I’m willing to help out again.

RJ Morey,
RJ’s Consulting,
http://www.rjsconsulting.net

Reply

March 25, 2010 at 7:34 am, RJ Morey said:

Don, Some of that fibre backbone is already in place. I know because I helped Alcatel, Fujitsu, MCI, MCI/Worldcom, NorTel, WilTel, and Worldcom build and provision it from 1995 thru 2001 until the bottom fell out of the backbone industry after 9/11. Most of that backbone is OC-48 and OC-192, with some of it using Alcatel 80 channel/terrabyte and Fujitsu 176 channel/terrabyte Flashwave OADM/OADX systems. The teams I was on ran fibre from Chicago down through St. Louis and Memphis, over to Central and West Texas, Southern New Mexico, up through Arizona, Southern Nevada, over to LA, up through Central California, Oregon, and Washington, and back again to Chicago. I also built and provisioned backbone pieces in rural Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Virginia, West Virginia, and throughout the East and Gulf Coast areas (both metro and rural). The interconnects are there, the different companies just need to work out the details for sharing the backbone. And I’m willing to help out again.

RJ Morey,
RJ’s Consulting,
http://www.rjsconsulting.net

Reply

April 01, 2010 at 11:07 am, robert martin said:

i for one am clad to hear that it is on the rise. i’m just about six weeks from completeing my correar traing in ncis. and i would do anything to just beable to get started in the field it.i’m 55 years old and field that i was in all but gone. keep me in touch so i can get my feet wet .thank you robert martin.

Reply

April 01, 2010 at 11:07 am, robert martin said:

i for one am clad to hear that it is on the rise. i’m just about six weeks from completeing my correar traing in ncis. and i would do anything to just beable to get started in the field it.i’m 55 years old and field that i was in all but gone. keep me in touch so i can get my feet wet .thank you robert martin.

Reply

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