The Folly of 100%

The same groups that have been insisting for years that there is something fundamentally wrong with the United States’ international broadband ranking are also the most strident advocates for the necessity of broadband’s total market saturation, even to the point of calling on benevolent old Uncle Sam to subsidize broadband deployment nationwide.

Consumer advocacy groups and even some telecom companies are lining up at the FCC’s door with petitions in hand and supplicant requests on their lips, claiming that access to broadband is a basic public necessity and should be meticulously regulated as such, right here and right now.

These groups would liken anything less than a National Rollout Plan to living in some myopic Digital Stone Age in which subhumans scratch tribal patterns on silicon with primitive tools and the harsh tonal anecdotes of 56K modems whisper sweet nothings to bended ears throughout the land; a place where bandwidth is hoarded by rich and powerful chieftains who deign the Luddite, unwashed masses unworthy of worshipping at the sacred altar of port 80.

Actual statistics, and our own experiences, tell a different story.

Keep in mind that increased market penetration won’t necessarily make broadband more affordable. In fact, companies looking to recoup diminishing marginal returns that arise from providing access to areas that would otherwise be off the grid could justify raising rates across the board. In other words, if the feds help or force ISPs to lay fiber to Farmer Wallis’ homestead in rural America but Wallis declines service because he has no need for high-def streaming video, hardcore online gaming, or P2P networks and doesn’t want to pay for a fat pipe, we all could end up paying the difference in our monthly rates.

We should consider the future nature of broadband as well. Emerging technologies such as LTE and satellite service will undoubtedly make mind-numbingly fast and reliable wireless broadband a reality in the next decade, and then we’ll look rather silly with all our subsidized fiber and cable, won’t we?