Broadband solution for all of US
California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency is urging the state government to issue bonds to finance the expansion and upgrading of
Those who already have broadband services probably don’t realize this but due to the physical size of our country and the-public-be-damned corporate attitude of the like of AT&T and Verizon, there are innumerable areas in this country that are still being served by 56 kbps dial-up modems only, and those areas are often only a few miles from where most broadband users live.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a blunder when it allowed AT&T and Bell South to merge two years ago. The only binding requirement to the merger worth noting was to stipulate that AT& T offer an inexpensive
In other words, AT&T was not required to upgrade the existing non-
Thanks to this FCC blunder, the public is being asked, as
AT&T and other phone companies in principle has no qualms about offering the best broadband service in the world, provide that the public pays for the cost of the upgrade upfront; otherwise, they are not going to do it with their own money. It is not that AT&T and other Baby Bells (Verizon, Qwest) don’t have the money for the infrastructural improvement, but they would rather spend the money buying up wireless spectrum to keep the competition out of their lucrative wireless phone business.
Undoubtedly, once the competition is out of the way, they will slam the public with expensive infrastructure upgrade bills. It will be almost like the old Ma Bell time: with virtually no competition, both the public and government will be at
If a progressive state like
I propose that it is still the federal government. After all, it already owns valuable wireless frequency properties on which to build a nationwide broadband wireless system for all legal
First of all, currently Federal Communications Commission is conducting a spectrum auction of 700 MHz radio spectrum that is being freed up by the TV industry’s move to digital TV broadcasting. This frequency spectrum is known as the “beachfront property” because of its extended reach and the ability to penetrate walls, tall buildings, hills, and mountains. In other words, it is a near perfect frequency spectrum to build a wireless nationwide broadband communications network. This auction is a once in a lifetime opportunity for many companies looking to either start a new broadband service or lock up the airwave to keep their competition out.
One of the frequency spectrum blocks in the FCC auction is called D block spectrum, which is reserved for dual public safety and commercial use. In other words, whoever buys this spectrum block has to share it with public safety agencies, such as police, fire, ambulance and what have you. Now, just imagine yourself as a potential buyer for D block spectrum, and you can see how tricky this can be; after all, the bandwidth you are buying is limited in its capacity, and you really don’t know what the future need of the public safety agencies will be and how much bandwidth that will encroach on your share. Only thing you know is that you have to accommodate whatever their need is.
Worse, the wireless communications market is heading for continuous data transmissions that take up huge amount of bandwidth, such as music and video streaming. Any wireless broadband provider hoping to succeed in this business in the coming years has to have all the bandwidth it can get—and you have to share a big chuck of that with emergency public services? It sure looks like a nonstarter, but suppose if you can get the spectrum for a fire sale price? Then, of course, you can be like AT&T, offering broadband service that is spotty, haphazard, while whistling the-public-be-damned song, and blaming the problems on not having enough bandwidth.
As I see it, the emergency public services are eventually going to end up paying for the bandwidth they use with whatever the new company it is going to be called. All bidders on D block spectrum anticipate this, so the buyer who is adept at pulling influence with Washington lobbyists should leap a huge profit on this purchase somewhere down the road, but the name of the game right now is to get the D block for a song first.
Consequently, as it stands, there appears to be little interest in bidding on D block at the FCC’s asking price. Why should there be? There is no need to be in a hurry, since the FCC isn’t going to stop offering it.
In short, there will be hardly any competitive bidding on this frequency block, and whoever bids on it at the rock bottom price might just get the spectrum. If the first round bids do not live up to the asking price, the FCC auction rule is to put the spectrum up again for the second round, presumably at a lower price, and the process will continue until the price is just about right for some company to afford a busload of lawyers and lobbyists for the next 10 years to make the public eventually pay for the cost of the bandwidth for public emergency use. If you don’t see it coming, you might as well buy a beachfront property in
To be fair, The FCC is to be applauded for coming up with the idea of using the D block spectrum to make a nationwide broadband communications network for emergency use, but why a dual system shared with a commercial entity? Well, the answer is simple: the US government did not want to foot the bill for the anticipated 10 billion dollars in infrastructural investment, not even the Pentagon which might benefit by shifting some of its communications need by going to a more limited access government run network to give itself a little rest from fighting the armies of Chinese and Russian government espionage hackers trying to penetrate into the US government computers to steal sensitive information via the Internet every minute of the day.
The dual share system is a nonstarter, not merely because of various fickle factors that are intrinsic to the private sector business, but also the likelihood that it will be just another conduit to access the Internet by its customers, with all the consequential problems of the Internet riding along with the nation’s emergency communications system. Do we really want to introduce our emergency first responders to hackers, saboteurs, and electronic hecklers on the same network while in the middle of an emergency, regardless of how many safety measures we employ?
No. The only way to go is to tie the emergency function with the communications function of another government agency. Unfortunately, outside of the Pentagon, there is probably no other government agency that can come up with $10 billion to make it a reality—except the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Why the USPS? Well, it is already in the nationwide communications business by the mandate of the US Congress to permit all Americans to communicate by an inexpensive and universal means of communications, although the advent of the Internet is beginning to leave it behind in terms of the technology being employed. It is about time that the USPS upgrades itself to connect all Americans by the 21st century technology; that is, by a wireless communications network that can reach just about anyone, anywhere in this country.
The money for the upgrade can be procured from a temporary postage surcharge (say, 4 cents on the First-Class, and a quarter on all parcels) for the next several years, or, alternatively, a monthly $1 surcharge on all telephone accounts, both landline and wireless, until the infrastructure is built. Another possibility is to use the Universal Service Fund, which is currently going into the phone companies’ coffers without ever seeing it coming out on the other end to help the rural and low-income US residents.
It should also be pointed out that the wireless communications towers and other facilities required for the network can be build on the ground of existing US and state government facilities, which include the USPS offices as well as on other public emergency agency facilities, thus virtually eliminating the land acquisition costs and fees for the land use.
Without going on for another 10 pages of details, I believe such a communications network can be made more secure, universal, and income-independent (a low-income
The network would operate apart from the Internet with limited (filtered) Internet access capability. All accessible websites must be registered with the USPS and the websites and their servers must be physically located in the
Each account must belong to a legal
Naturally, privacy is an issue if users wish to hide their identities, since they have to be who they are (no fake email identities) to use the network to send emails or receive them, but that is no different from the present USPS. The USPS pretty much knows whom it serves. That, actually, is the beauty of the current USPS when it comes to communicating with known persons or sending packages. With the current Internet full of fake personas and multiple email addresses, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the recipients of emails or the users of social networks to know who they are dealing with, which often lead to fraudulent activities, physical harm, even death.
Most of us are painfully aware of the case of Megan Meier, a 13-year-old suburban
Needless to say, this is definitely not for people who want to mask their identity while using emails and other services provided by the Internet. For them, there will always be commercial alternatives, and it should be pointed out that opening an account with the USPS is not a requirement. One can easily choose not to use it, just as one can choose not to receive any mail from the current USPS. However, to prevent abuses by commercial entities, other than for email exchanges, social network uses, and emergency calls, the user’s identity should be masked while surfing the Internet so the websites they visit will not be able to identify the visitors without requesting first.
Undoubtedly, the issue of fraudulent activities probably will not be completely eliminated, but having a single network operator and stricter access rules for both the users and websites should allow a measurable improvement in securing the network. Needless to say, any undertaking of this magnitude definitely requires further studies before its full implementation.
The access devices for the network can be portable (basically a cellular phone type device with email and limited website access and emergency voice capability) or home based (accessible via TV screen possibly). In addition, those with Internet capable cellular phones should be able to access their USPS accounts by configuring the phones provided that the phones would be SDR (software defined radio) capable for multi-frequency access.
Heavy users of USPS email accounts would have to pay email postage over a certain monthly quota. This is to prevent commercial entities from spamming the system and at the same time provide the USPS with additional revenues. This is no different from the current USPS requiring postage to use its service.
In regard to improving public safety, the fact that this network is shared with public safety agencies will likely enhance the ability of these agencies to reach the affected citizens in case of natural disasters, mass evacuations, and other national emergencies via email or voice mail that can be sent out en masse to all account holders in the affected areas. Since the email addresses in the proposed USPS network are tied to the domiciles of the account holders, this is relatively easy to accomplish.
Other local agencies and government offices would also gain an invaluable means to reach their citizens electronically to inform them of the changes in local laws and ordinances. Local school systems can find ways to reach parents and students better, particularly when the schools are in recess. Furthermore, the federal government can implement more efficient way for the citizens to fill tax returns at no cost securely online, and the members of the Congress would be able to reach their constituencies more effectively at virtually no costs. If the public financing of political campaign ever becomes a reality, this ca be an ideal way for each candidate to reach potential voters also (only during a defined period for campaigning).
Regardless of the merit of the idea presented here, I believe the FCC‘s proposal to share the communications need of emergency public agencies with the commercial need of a private enterprise is a bad idea. If you agree, be sure to let your Congressional Representatives and Senators, as well as FCC Commissioners know before the D block spectrum gets sold for a song to a front company for a private equity firm, or the like of AT&T and Verizon which are mostly interested in buying up all spectrum blocks to keep the competition out.