Sunday, March 21, 2010

On The Left Podcast Episode 5

Welcome to Episode 5 of On The Left Podcast! This week we have headlines for the week ending 3/20/2010 as well as a discussion of the 91 amendments before the House of Representatives on Health care. In segment two, Matthew will talk about the new FCC National Broad Band Plan. Please enjoy the show.
New FCC Plan for National Broadband Access: Fraud or first step

I have a question for you, where does the USA place in MBPS broadband compared to the rest of the world?
Where do we rank? 1st, 10th , 15th how about 21st, Close we ranked 19th in the world. The US has an average mbps download speed of just 5mbps and upload is just 1mbps according to that is 1/20th the download speed in Hong Kong, Japan or France and 1/100th the upload speed. In Hong Kong today 100mbps in upload/download speed is about $20 per month. I will assume that you are paying more than that for less.
Since the 1990’s States have been paying companies like AT & T and what has become Verizon to upgrade the “old copper” phone networks called, the Public Switched Telephone Networks or PSTN, this is the wiring to most homes, offices, schools and libraries. This is what most would call the critical infrastructure for what most services travel over today. They were to upgrade the old copper line with fiber optics and they have been paid over those years to do this though taxes and incentives to the tune of about $320 Billion dollars. Like so many companies before them they took the money and did as little work as they could, today AT&T has pulled a bait-and-switch because they are still using the old system for their U-Verse service and have stopped building out new fiber optic networks and has failed to upgrade the infrastructure over the last 15 years and they have done this in almost 22 states.
In the new FCC plan it is going to pay for the improvements by adding broadband to the Universal Service Fund Tax- this is not a problem if they don’t then contract the companies that have failed to bring us high speed broadband in the last 20 years with $320 billion of our money already.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said last month” the 100 squared initiatives is 100 million households at 100mbps by 2020 – will unleash American ingenuity and ensure that businesses, large and small are created here, move here and stay here”
So we are going to have this network in 10 years when the top 5 on the mbps ranking already have this today, I don’t think that’s a good plan. Then there is this from the International time, they quoted Qwest Communications International Chief Executive Edward Mueller when asked about the plan, “A 100 mbps is just a dream”, “we can’t afford it”
Qwest has received over $89 billion from State and local governments over the last 10 years from upgrading services and they have only increased their broadband coverage by 10%.
Now on to the Plan, It was released on March 16 2010 and you can read or download it at, I have read through this report 376 pages of what the FCC things will make the USA number 1 in the World, by 2020 of course. I will not get into everything in the plan in this report I will just be talking about what the basic overview I took from my first read.
These are the long term stated goals of the plan
Goal 1: at least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 mbps and actual upload speeds of at least 50mbps by 2020
Goal 2: The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.
Goal 3: Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they choose.
Goal 4: Every American community should have affordable access to at least 1gbps broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.
Goal 5: To ensure the safety of the American people every first responder should have access to a nationwide wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.
Goal 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

Where to start Goal number one is a nice goal to have but I will rely on the rest of the world standing still for 10 years, also they keep using the word affordable without defining what it means, what I think is affordable might not be what you think is affordable. Point of fact I live in a rural area and I have very limited choices on broadband pricing they start at $45 per month for just 256kbps up to $399 per month for 5 mbps, by way of comparison I if I lived just 15 miles north I could get broadband through a cable company starting at just $20 per month and get 1mbps.
Goal 2 is something entirely different, first there is a big difference between broadband and wireless, from reading the report this goal is setting up the ending of the PSTN network for phones, AT&T is already asking to be let out from under there obligations to continue to maintain the old wired phone network because they “can’t make money at it” but as most things you need to look at their SEC filings to see they are lying about that. In 2009 AT&T made a $123 billion, the wire line business made $66 billion and that was $12 billion more than their wireless business, but the wireless side has less restrictions and higher profit margins. The FCC even admits that a full 20% of American household still get there only phone service through the PSTN that amounts to over 60 million people that will have to go to cell phones if that network is ended, just think about moving from analog TV to digital and you know what I mean.
Goal 3 is what I call a filler goal, if you can’t access and use a computer now in 10 years you will most likely be dead, meaning that the only person I know that can’t use the internet are my grandmother and she is turning 90 this year, while I hope she lives for another 10 years even if she does she will still not use a computer. Once again they use the word affordable and do not define it.
Goal 4: This one I like a lot, but once again it falls short, there is no reason we could not be close to this goal now.

Goal 5: I thought that his one was already on the books, after 9/11 we put billions into first responder systems, so why didn’t we think ahead and upgrade the whole system, oh that’s right repugs were in charge.
Goal 6: This one is just a token BS goal, I am a green person and I don’t care about this. Every report now a day has to have its Green Energy part and it is not needed here.
Ok so to the headline is this plan a fraud or a first step, I think that question will be answered by the way they go about implementing the plan if they just give tax incentives to AT&T , Qwest , Verizon or other big companies to make it happen through the “free market” it is a fraud, but if the government comes through and takes the hands on approach and does a real bidding for contract process and then punishes contractors if they don’t me there goals and does a “STRONG” regulation package then this is a first step, but in the long run if they really want to lead the rest of the world on this they need to do it in less than 5 years. Make this part of a new Public works program to rebuild our countries infrastructure.
I can get behind that.

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