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Broadband Austerity: The Wrong Path at the Wrong Time

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By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Is broadband deployment progressing or regressing? Does it seem like broadband policy may be taking two steps forward and one step back? Most of the time we’re inundated in encouraging news, both forecasts about its economic potential and grounded-in-reality reports about new deployments, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Research firm Gartner has devised an unintentionally humorous curve that it applies to technology like broadband: its hype cycle. It has five data points, starting out like a waveform and then flattening out.

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Five Macro Trends that Benefit from Broadband Investment

Howard Baldwin - Photograph

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Much of the recent business and economic news has been uncertain, regarding the outlook for renewed growth. But I’ve been thinking positively about the upside opportunities for progress.

Let me indulge in a bit of crystal-ball gazing. The telecommunications industry spends a lot of time focusing on deploying broadband for current applications. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that there are at least a handful of macroeconomic trends that are either going to boost broadband adoption — or wither because there isn’t enough broadband available.

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Status-Quo Disruption: What Constitutes Enough Competition?

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Interesting news came out of Europe last month regarding upstart service providers’ potentially disruptive behavior, as well as the responses of established competitors. The news begs the question about telecommunications competition – when does more competition lead to lower prices, and when does it lead to overlapping investment that drives costs up?

In an area as cutting-edge as telecommunications, does increased competition drive R&D investment or decimate it?

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Private or Public Sector: Who Should Deploy Broadband?

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Google’s experiment in laying broadband fiber in Kansas City, Missouri revives the old question of who should deploy broadband technology: the public sector, the private sector, or an entity based on a public utility model?

Municipally deployed broadband (like its previous sibling, municipal Wi-Fi) continues to be somewhat problematic. A recent audit for the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency, the optimistically named UTOPIA in the Salt Lake City suburbs, shows that the consortium is still waiting for broadband to catch on in order to pay back its bonds.

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Broadband Infrastructure: Should Rural Investment Be a Priority?

By Howard Baldwin, Contributing Columnist

Sometimes those promoting extensive infrastructure projects — broadband or otherwise — exhibit a Field of Dreams mentality: “If you build it, they will come.” My own state of California is currently wrestling with such a project, a $68 billion high-speed rail line that opponents claim is too expensive and will never pay for itself. My attitude: come the day we have to evacuate San Francisco or Los Angeles after a major earthquake, people are going to be grateful it was built.

As we recently discussed in Broadband Backlash: Where It Comes From and How to Fix It, broadband deployments also have their detractors. Currently, one of the biggest areas of contention swirls around the value of rural broadband. There are really two sides of the story.

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