The priority for Congress in the Wednesday hearing to to draw a bright line between network projects in legitimate need of federal support for construction, technical capacity development, and backhaul and those, like Loveland, that are simply vanity projects.
The need for broadband can be satisfied in a matter of months by spending money where it can do the most good: on end user inclusion programs and subsidies. The long term need for better and better broadband exists as well, but it lives on a completely different timeline.
When we begin with the requirements we quickly find that there are many ways to satisfy them. At this point it’s more prudent to continue to rely on innovation to meet needs rather than declare one and only one technology the permanent victor.
Indicators of Broadband Needs sheds light on low-income areas with limited broadband use. It doesn’t answer questions about how much money we need to spend on infrastructure, what speeds such spending should target, whether the providers should be public or private, and how such money should be spent.
The way forward is to prioritize urgent needs over long term visions. In cases where a new wireline network is the only solution that will get a rural community online, of course that network needs to be all fiber and potentially symmetrical. But such cases are rare.
While we have work to do in rural and poor America, we are not at a point where we can afford to turn our backs on emerging technologies in favor of a zombie broadband plan born in the last millennium.