From this moment forward I respectfully request that each and every broadband deployment apologist refer to their oft-quoted excuse by number. This will save us all an enormous amount of time and contribute to the overall efficiency of our discussions.

1.) This really isn’t a problem.

The idea that any professional in this field could actually allow these words to pass through their lips indicates to me that there is a need to have licensing mandated before anyone can enter this field.

Without doubt, these people are the reincarnation of the short-sighted but opinionated members of mankind that used these same exact arguments in every advancement human beings have made from the discovery of fire.

Somewhere in my warped imagination I see the discussion as going something like this…

Tribal Chieftain - “What in blazes do we need fire for?”

A long forgotten innovator - “We need it because food tastes better and it’s safer to eat when we cook it. It also helps keep us warm and safe from the animals at night.”

Tribal Chieftain - “If the great sun god wanted us to have fire, he would have brought the sun down to earth and gave it to us. Now, get rid of that dangerous monstrosity!”

And mankind’s progress vanished in a puff of smoke for another millennium.

Don’t even get me started on what happened when the first human
proposed moving out of the cave and building a home out of wood!

2.) Broadband isn’t a God given right

This argument seems to be based on the idea that the United States sanctions the idea that some people are “better” than others or perhaps some geographic locations are “preferred” over others. I find it rather amusing that if we were to look at the actual locations that have broadband we can clearly see that wealthy communities almost uniformly have service while the poorest communities having next to no service. This line is even more clearly delineated when we use a higher standard for the definition of broadband than the FCC’s 200Kbps benchmark.

We are all expected to pay our fair share of taxes but for some reason some of us are entitled to vastly superior services. This, of course, does not suggest we are all created equal but rather some of us are a lot more equal than others.

I also find it very curious that almost every single one of the people spewing this point connect to an Internet that everyone in the country (who has telephone service) contributes to. As every one of us that has a POTS line pays the Universal Service Fund fee, it stands to reason that every single one of us helps to bring telecommunications services to such places as Odessa, Washington (unknown tourist capitol of the universe) so that high speed Internet can be delivered there.

One thing I haven’t figured out is that if some people are made more equal than others who gets to choose and how can I get directly in touch with them? Maybe, you know, I can slip them fifty bucks and get on their good side!

3.) Our infrastructure is “Good Enough”

The wonderful thing about the “Good Enough” discussion is that the proponents of this excuse have one thing universally in common, none of them will clearly state what is “Good Enough” except to say what they believe is “Good Enough” for their customers at this time. As the argument goes, we provide adequate service to 99% of our customers and those that want better service are either abusing our service or should move to a place where they can get the service they are looking for.

What friggin’ balls!

Instead of embracing the “leading edge” customer as the harbinger of what will soon be the norm, these “providers” (I use the quotes there as I am beginning to believe these companies should be labeled as “barely providing”) will bandwidth throttle “heavy users” or block services (see the earlier discussion about blocking VOIP for more information on this issue) and sometimes kick these customers off their network.

Don’t worry, we’re told, they will upgrade their networks as they see fit – in other words, when there is no choice they will install better equipment that will meet the needs of the majority of their users. If you corner any member of this group you will find that they are split into two distinct groups. The first group understands that any intelligently run network will always be in a constant state of upgrade as new services and technologies cause new problems at the same time presenting new solutions. Ask this group what they think will happen when VoIP moves into the mainstream and you will get an honest answer (along with an involuntary rolling of the eyes) saying that it will raise hell with their current infrastructure and that it will be expensive for them. The other group is also easy to differentiate, their eyes in stead of rolling will immediately glaze over. They don’t understand these issues, have little comprehension of the technology and are basically just trying to find the light switch in their office so they can shut it off one last time and go home.

There is such a level of short-sightedness to the “Good Enough” network excuse that one has to wonder why it isn’t illegal. Oh, that’s right, it’s their network and it should be their choice as to what level of service they should provide the American public with – not the FCC, not the customer – nobody but them. The hell with what real consequences they are wreaking on our economy or the economy of their hometowns. What they are really doing is prolonging the digital divide and providing a convenient excuse for why they are justified in doing so. If that isn’t enough of an insult they also throw in that we should do business with them because “they are part of the local community and “they care” about us.

Perhaps the scariest line in today’s world is, “Hi, I’m a local businessperson and I care about you!” I can tell, that’s the very same feeling I get when I listen to audio Valium on hold as a soothing voice tells me that “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold as the next available operator will be with you shortly.” Shortly – apparently they changed the definition of that word on me and forgot to publicize the change.

4.) The US is too big a country/land mass

This commonly put up excuse is one I keep hearing repeated – usually by people that find it acceptable to “parrot” what someone else said and they thought was important to remember. What I can’t fathom is how they can remember the excuse but somehow missed the thorough debunking that was provided to it on every one of the previous occasions that it was presented.

I can only rationalize this type of belief as another example of somebody completely blocking out any point of view that doesn’t fit in within their scope of understanding. I do understand that this is a human trait, one that we all (yes, me too) sometimes fall into but we all also need to realize that reality is something that will still be there, unchanged, even after everything we try to believe is shown to be false. In fact, I believe that is a very suitable definition for the word reality.

Was our country that much smaller when we decided to bring telecommunications to every last corner of our country, the same telecommunications network that every single one of these service providers connects to? Was the expense of that project so great that we learned to never try to do something like that again? Perhaps it was the rural electrification of our country was something that convinced us that connecting the entire country with a reliable, ultra high speed Internet connections would be far too expensive to attempt. Did all of a sudden everyone forgot the incredible payback we are all still enjoying? Seems to me like the entire country chipped in to bring telecommunications to Odessa, Washington but somehow that has nothing to do with the Internet, these are two completely unrelated services.

This begs to question why we would entrust a service as important as Internet delivery (arguably soon to replace telephone) to any company that doesn’t understand that the net isn’t just a porn delivery service any longer. It boggles the imagination.

5.) We don’t care what the rest of the world is doing!

The isolationist approach! Contrary to any wisdom I am familiar with, this approach seems to feel we shouldn’t have to worry about what is going on in Europe or Asia because it doesn’t effect what happens inside our borders. This one excuse is perhaps he one I have the most difficulty with because it shows a clear disconnect from how interdependent our country has become with the world economy.

Is it possible that even though almost every single thing we acquire is produced somewhere else anyone in this day and age could believe we are not directly in competition with pretty much the rest of the world?

How is this possible? We are constantly bombarded with media stories about outsourcing, manufacturing facilities being closed down to be opened overseas where it is cheaper to produce the same goods. I do not wish to enter into a discussion about whether this is right or not but rather point out that we are no longer an island – I’m not sure we ever were.

Here’s a head’s up, if you’re not worried about your job being replaced by someone else, you should be. If these is a high paying field that isn’t under attack from people overseas – starving people (starving for your job, that is) you might want to pull your head out of wherever is is currently placed and take a wide look around.

Canada is a huge land mass and they are now number five in the world in broadband deployment (down from number three) as things sit. Canada has managed to provide broadband into its most remote areas almost uniformly and they will profit from that investment.

If the argument that we are too big a land mass had any validity at all one has to question why even our cities don’t have ubiquitous coverage? Why is it Hong Kong has GigE and Boston doesn’t? Both cities are roughly the same size, the geographies are similar and the fact is they are both very high tech cities. I was “treated” to one explanation of why this was that made me scratch my head. I was told that Hong Kong was only interested seeing “local content” as if the entire island is planning to ignore the rest of the known world.

What is this, revenge of the “C” grade student?

6.) The full deployment of ultra high speed Internet is too expensive.

This excuse is usually provided by someone who has no idea what value is or how to measure it. I am sure that connecting almost every location in the United States to the telephone network was expensive – incredibly expensive – but we did it and as a nation we all reaped the benefits.

In study after study it has been shown conclusively that areas that have high speed Internet introduced show almost immediate improvement in economic indicators but even more importantly improvement in the lowest economic portion of our population. In one study conducted in Philadelphia the results was amazing. In this study there is a clear link that when broadband is provided to people that normally couldn’t afford it upward economic progress is made. I believe it can be safely stated that dollar for dollar this is without doubt one of the best values we will ever find to help poor people escape from poverty.

I’m sure there was a significant portion of the population that didn’t want to spend money to bring telecommunications to the entire country back then too. Every generation is saddled with them – people that the extent of their vision can be measured in feet, usually the same feet they constantly trip over. What I find most curious is the fact that these people are not “stupid” or intellectually challenged. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

However, it has been my experience that they need to maintain a set of beliefs that they can rely one to support their view of the world. One thing I have consistently noticed is that they almost all uniformly have one trait in common, they refuse to look at new information or any information that might change, alter or shape their perception of the way they want things to be. This is often tied into a financial commitment, one that their future might well rest on which provides a strong incentive for them to not want to disturb this house of cards they have built to convince themselves they are correct in their assumptions. The good news is these people will go out of business as did their counterparts in the mimeograph machine and electric typewriter business.

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Unfortunately, they didn’t tell us that these people will be reincarnated generation after generation until they get it right.

Hang on folks, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride…

7.) The equipment/upstream connection cost too much

Now this excuse has some validity on the surface but when we take a close look at the real meat of the matter we can clearly see this is just one more line of bull we hear from the amateurs to shirk their responsibility.

Is the equipment expensive? I suppose that depends on how you define expensive. I’m sure a tractor trailer is expensive, a huge investment but there are hundreds of thousands of them on the road. They are bought, worked, serviced, expenses are paid on them and they earn money. This is no different from what a well run WISP could do – the term “well run” being the key operational phrase there.

Where the idea that a reliable, professional communications company could be started and built up with very little or no capital is beyond me – and I once believed that myself. Let me clarify something, the Internet is a communications medium and I know more than one company that would probably give up their telephone before they would give up their Internet connection if they were forced to choose.

Yet at least once a month I hear from people trying to start up a WISP thinking that they need to spend $2,000 – $3,000 and they’ll be all set.

Let’s face up to reality here, if you want to start a WISP I am here to tell you that you’re going to need some money, real money, just like the independent long-haul truck driver I mentioned in the example above. If you’re looking to get into a business that only requires a little bit of capital, they’re out there but I think I can speak from experience here, becoming a WISP is not one of them.

The other side of the expense equation is the upstream connection. Let’s face it a T1 is an expensive animal considering exactly what you get for your money. What I can’t understand is how we (this is the greater “we” here) can put up with this. Verizon is rolling out fiber (Fios) into wealthy neighborhoods at a breakneck speed offering their highest priced package at $199/month. This $199/month package provides 30Mbps down and 5Mbps down but yet Verizon can still look you square in the eye and tell you that a T1 should cost you anywhere from $400 up (we’re still paying over $600/month just for the local loop, the IP connection is $600/month on top of that) as though this is a rational price. To add insult to injury, Verizon is selling old technology, using equipment that the price has dropped substantially carrying this circuit across copper lines that have been paid for over and over again.

What can be done about this?

If WISPs were a serious group (and blue pigs could fly) we would be pressuring the larger manufacturers as a solidified group to mass produce something effective for us in large enough quantities so as to drop the price right through the floor.

Alvarion (along with a number of other manufacturers) realized this was the only future they were facing and have now thrown their full weight behind the WiMAX initiative with dramatically reduced equipment as one of its most important features. We’ll see if this will meet the requirements of the WISP community in due time.

As far as the upstream connection, let’s face it, WISPs are not a unified force. In fact, if they were we might be able to put pressure on the FCC or our representatives to do something about the screwing we’re taking but the likelihood of that ever happening probably isn’t keeping anyone at the ILECs awake at night.

8.) We don’t want government/tax money used

This is also an argument that appears to show merit but when examined closely it fails to deliver.

We live in a system, a carefully manipulated, controlled and orchestrated system. The idea that we can independently exist outside of the system is a level of stupidity that really need to be examined.

The ILEC’s infrastructure is supported by tax dollars both directly and indirectly. The cable franchises are also protected by having a monopoly status as does the ILECs. Do I think this is a good idea? Not that it makes any difference at all I do believe it is a necessary evil. We need telecommunications to be dependable and available everywhere. It is simply not acceptable for our communications infrastructure to break down or be unavailable. Given the inability of WISPs to do more than fill in the blanks and then make excuses as to why they can’t do more is why I believe that we either need to step up to the plate and show this country we can do the job without the tax money (that means everyone – EVERYONE – gets connected to reliable service, not some forever breaking down duct tape and bailing wire, cobbled together piece of crap network that is in constant need of repair.

Is it too expensive? Only if you look at what WISPs would deliver – see above!

9.) Telecommunications should be left to the professionals – like the telephone company!

Everyone needs a good laugh every so often and I saved this excuse for last. The telecommunications industry have a shameful history of completely ignoring their customers. Lily Thomlin made a career out of Ma Bell’s incredibly horrendous service. When the Internet was first introduced to the public the ILECs were wholly uninterested in anything that had to do with the service and had it not been for private enterprise the Internet might never have reached where it is today – quite literally a household word.

Even once the ILECs understood the value of providing Internet service they still couldn’t manage to get it out to enough people to make a dent. Heck, if they’d done their job correctly (even half-assed) there wouldn’t even be independent Internet Service Providers let alone WISPs,

You might be tempted to think that the ILECs have learned a thing or two over the last couple of decades but the reality is if that is true the phrase “too little, too late” seems to describe their progress.

If you take a look at their future business model it is pretty easy to distinguish that they are on a crash course to failure. There are too many miles of copper that would need to be replaced with fiber and too little money (and business) to justify the replacement. A wise businessperson would realize that partnering with subcontracting companies might be an option but not these monopoly driven bastards. They want it all and their greed will get the best of them yet.

In the past, there has always been a caring government that would bail them out but I believe the times are changing. As more and more independent communications companies start to deliver reliable (and less expensive) communications services the need to the ILEC will diminish. In a word, we have options. This is already starting to happen and to be quite frank with you I believe the ILECs might be looking at this as a chance to shift their total monopoly status from one of “owning the entire country” to “owning just the wealthiest neighborhoods” something that is flawed thinking from my perspective.

The situation (as I read it) is that wealthy people aren’t fools, they understand value, they demand the cutting edge products and services while expecting their providers to be able to bring it to them ahead of the game. This is something that in the entire history of the ILECs they have never been good at.

What will happen? I’m not sure anyone really knows but some of the indications are that the dynamics are changing and as we all know, those that adapt will survive and flourish. Charles Darwin never had experience with an ILEC but his observations can certainly be applied, survival is based on successful adaptation. I don’t see the ILECs as being able to pull that one off!

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