“Hell, there are no rules here - we're trying to accomplish something.” Thomas A. Edison
There seems to be a lot of talk surrounding the FCCs latest arrangement to allocate funding from the Universal Service Fund to pay for broadband access to rural Americans. I have a personal view on this topic being that I have family members that live in the rurals and are stuck to DSL for their Internet access, which is actually better than most.... it was dial-up just a few years ago.
I have constantly made the case that the Rural Broadband legislation should be combined with the Nations First Responder Broadband Network or Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN). In order to see how this works you need to take off the blinders of viewing a Public Safety Network of yesteryear. We are in a state of technological advancement that is pushing wireless access to speeds far beyond what, cost effectively, wireline access can provide.
Some background first; the typical 3G network is designed using 3 Kilometer circles around the base of its towers. This is the radio footprint. For LTE it is designed to 6-8 Miles and can reach as far as 30 Miles. Bandwidth for 3G is, at best times, 1.5 Megabits Per Second (Mbps). Just the first generation of LTE is above 890 Mbps in lab trials and is being deployed at roughly 25-100 Mpbs segments. Your best commercially available home connection is at around 25 Mpbs and that covers cable or carrier based service. I don’t know about you, but my service states 25 Mpbs and I’m surprised if I get 12 Mpbs -- even worse on the upload speeds.
The main reason the commercial carriers, and cable providers, don’t want to deliver service to the rural areas has to do with basic economics. There aren’t enough customers, which relates to revenue, in the rural areas to justify expanding their platforms to cover those areas. It’s not rocket science. But, there are those that will take the money anyway, being that it is being thrust at them, and will make the case later in that the Federal and State governments will have to step in to pick up the bill for operations and maintenance if the revenue isn’t there. You have to face the fact that the carriers, and cable operators, are in the business to make money…not provide free broadband service. There is a solution though.
With the amount of bandwidth, and the technical capabilities of the new wireless platforms, i.e. LTE, there is no reason why the PSBN could not justify the necessity to reach those rural clients. After all, their wireless footprint will cover the areas anyway. I can easily see an opportunity to sell those rural broadband users to the cable companies and carriers via an MVNO (Managed Virtual Network Operator) contract. Can you imagine…the role reversal?
Let’s say I am the great State of Texas and I have just completed building out my Public Safety Broadband Network covering more than 96% of the geographic landmass of the State. Wouldn’t it be nice to recoup some of that money by selling non-priority, and underutilized, network availability access to the rural customers that fall within its footprint? After all there is a “self funding” requirement for long-term operations and support that needs to be paid as laid out in the Federal Legislation. I’m not saying that the State should sell direct access, but rather they should sell wholesale access to those rural customers via the PSBN to the carriers and the cable MSO’s; who in return would pay a monthly, or yearly, contract fee to access those users.
That’s just one example. If we go one step further, a Public Private Partnership (P3) could actually be the profit engine for the State PSBN and they will in turn manage the selling of services to the carriers and cable companies; of which, the P3 would manage the long-term SLAs contracts with all the State entities anyway.
Just some guy and a blog….