I wonder how long it will take for the FCC to realize that the rural broadband initiative can be achieved through its plans for the Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN).
Although the initial deployments of the PSBN will be for Public Safety specific uses; it won’t be long before the abundance of bandwidth and low usage statistics start to become evident during its initial tenure. This may open the door for expansion of the FCC Broadband initiative to include private wireless as a method of touching the rural Americans; not just the wireline as is the case today. This could put a whole new spin on the FCC’s Connect America Fund.
As parts of the PSBN start to come online, and solidify in its daily operations, the FCC and the NTIA could start to harvest the under-utilization of the PSBN during non-emergency timeframes. A key way to develop this usage could be through a mechanism of RFPs. In short, the FCC (or a State entity) could initiate RFPs that the carriers would bid-on in order to get access to the rural customers within the wireless/wireline footprint of the PSBN. This would generate a win-win-win scenario whereas everyone would get what they want: the carriers get access to the customers without having to build; the rural Americans get broadband access; the Public Safety gets better utilization and funding for its broadband deployments; and the State and Federal Government resolve a standing issue of broadband to all Americans, plus a strong infrastructure for Public Safety.
For a carriers point of view though, it will be imperative to know how such opportunities would be administered, i.e. would the State or Federal Government let the RFP and/or would they be obligated to buy access to the rural customers, or would they just compete to fill a void of service offerings to the rural America? The opportunities are abundant, but from my perspective, it would be wise for the State and the Federal Government to utilize their Public Private Partnership arrangement, associated with funding the PSBN, to enforce revenue sharing, or a “price for access” model; much like a carrier would do to them. In essence, instead of the carrier selling access to the State, the State would sell access to the carrier; then the carrier would sell broadband service to the rural customers.
Just some guy and a blog…