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Federal Funding Alone Can’t Deliver Wireless Broadband By Tom Gurr

Americans in urban and suburban areas take wireless service for granted. This is not so much so for those living in the rural and remote areas of the West where service is not always available. There are vast areas without 3G wireless coverage, much less the new 4G LTE technology. And because of the mountainous terrain and greater distances, people in some rural areas also lack reliable, high-speed wired Internet access.

There is some good news. The federal government has just allocated $300 million to bring 3G coverage to unserved areas across the United States. The Federal Communications Commission provided the money from the Connect America fund through an auction last month.

But this funding is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars needed to really make an impact in delivering high-speed Internet access to those people who still need it. You can see for yourself. This map toggles between the areas in the nation with no 3G service today and the areas that will get the service by 2015 as part of the funding awarded.  Check out the Pacific Northwest.  $300 million spread out over the nation barely registers here.

If you’ve wondered why we’re so vocal about the importance of private sector investment in our nation’s wireless infrastructure, you need look no further. Even massive amounts of taxpayer dollars aren’t nearly enough to deliver the high-speed connections consumers want and need.

Wireless broadband service has the potential to have a significant impact on people’s lives in rural areas where it’s often prohibitively expensive to deploy wire lines across hundreds of empty miles to connect scattered homes, businesses, and ranches. Wireless service is a much more plausible option. Next-generation networks based on Internet Protocol (IP) platforms can carry voice data over the Internet and can transmit enormous amounts of data at lightning fast speeds.  An Internet rooted in super-fast IP technology can revolutionize health care, education and transportation—all critical services that rural areas struggle to get the best of.

Given how much is left to do, even after the FCC Mobility Fund announcement, the government can supplement its actions by ensuring public policy and regulations encourage private sector investment in the build out of robust communications infrastructure. Consumers spread out all over America need the networks that the private sector is poised to build.  The government can do its part by supplying regulatory certainty to potential investors so that companies know their investment in state-of-the-art IP-network connections are a safe bet.

Categories Articles, Blog, Broadband Revolution, Featured Story, Next Generation Networks, Opinions | Tags: | Posted on October 26, 2012

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