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Wireless Carriers Struggle to Keep Up with Inauguration Day Call Volume


20/01/2009

As Kevin Martin finishes his term as FCC Chairman, questions are being raised about the future of an ambitious proposal to cover most of America’s population with free wireless broadband service within a few years.

Will incoming FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, have the same enthusiasm for nationwide broadband? And if so will he pursue Martin’s proposal as it stands, or go back to the drawing board? With the answers to these question still up in the air, it seems like an excellent opportunity for critics of the current plan to promote alternatives.

One such critic is wireless industry analyst, Craig Settles, who strongly supports the concept of a national broadband strategy, but feels that Martin’s proposal lacks the regional flexibility to be workable.

In a recent interview with TeleClick, Settles said the FCC would be wrong to implement a one-size-fits-all network by committing the entire nation to a single company or technology. Some areas, after all, are well-served by existing carriers, while others are greatly in need of new broadband options. Furthermore, the solutions required by remote and rural areas might be completely different than those needed in under-served urban neighbourhoods.

The one-size-fits-all approach didn’t work for the state of New York, which recently canceled funding for a statewide public safety network, citing numerous technological deficiencies which the company building the network had failed to fix. By putting America’s entire national broadband strategy in the hands of one company, the FCC would be running the risk of an equally disastrous scenario on a nationwide scale.

Mr. Settles believes that the FCC should open itself to variety of innovative, locally-developed solutions from throughout the U.S., while insisting on a certain level of quality and interoperability from participating service providers. He envisions a multi-tier network that provides some free services as a loss leader, but avoids falling into the same trap as municipal Wi-Fi providers, which focused almost exclusively on free, ad-supported broadband, and were unable to develop a viable business model.

Quality and accessibility should be the main priorities of any government-sponsored network, Settles argues, noting that the ‘95% rule’ (requiring the national broadband network to serve 95% of Americans within 10 years) focuses too much on raw quantity, threatening the long-term viability of the project. And he makes a very good point Why, after all, should a new discount network be required to cover cities and towns that already have access to high-quality mobile broadband networks of incumbent carriers like Verizon and AT&T?

Surely, if the U.S. federal government is going to provide funding to new broadband projects, it makes more sense to bring targeted access to the areas that really need it (where consumer demand will undoubtedly be high), rather than mandating redundant coverage in every American city.



 

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