Friday, January 23, 2009

Broadband Rolls Out, DTV Clams Up

I have a brother in Missouri who lives on and works over 300 acres of land. He’s a cattle rancher. I rarely receive emails from him and I'm really careful about what I send him. No attachments, no embedded video or pictures, etc. If it’s not plain text, he can’t/won’t open them because it takes him forever and ever amen to download them. My brother’s livelihood depends on information. What is the weather forecast? What’s the price of beef on the exchange? What about the price of soy? (He grows that too). What about hay or alfalfa?

Yet, even though he needs the latest, hottest technology in order to keep up and make sure that he can dodge a bad situation so that this year and all his hard work will be profitable, he is stuck on antiquated dial up. I can hardly think of another person who needs broadband right this minute more than my brother does.

So I am thrilled that Congress is including broadband in the stimulus package. Simultaneously I am concerned about who will get the $6 billion. BusinessWeek reports that the broadband bill is disappointing nearly everyone, and by “everyone” they mean the telecom companies.

Telecom companies are sniffing that it will take way too long to get the money, that the process of doling out grants, loans and loan guarantees will be too bureaucratic. But I would hazard a guess that regardless of the process, they will bully their way to the front of the line, hand held straight out to get the lion’s share of the $6 billion.

The piece missing in the BusinessWeek article is where do municipalities stand in the mix? Nary a municipal official was quoted, even though municipalities have been at the forefront of the broadband conversation for years. I know of towns on the brink of dying because their manufacturing base disappeared and they can’t attract new business because they have no broadband infrastructure. Therefore, they cannot create jobs, provide educational opportunities to their children, and grow their capacity and so on. They are stuck in a vicious rut "we need 21st century solutions but we only have 20th century technology."

It is my fervent hope that this is the beginning of municipalities being able to build their own broadband infrastructure in robust and meaningful ways. We have been too long at the mercy of the telecom companies; we can’t afford another “business plan” when so much of the country needs a “survival plan.”

On another note, deja vu all over again, the DTV transition faces a deadline delay. According to the AP, there are currently 2.6 million coupon requests on a waiting list and it is estimated that more than 6.5 million households would lose television reception on February 17th if the transition proceeds as planned.

I love how the new date chosen is June 12th. I racked my brain as to why that particular date was chosen, then I realized, it was a Friday. Are these people insane?

6.5 million households will have their TV’s go dark just in time for the weekend? Does anyone have any idea what it is like to spend an entire weekend without television? All that dead air time, staring at the walls, having to actually interact with your spouse or your kids. Not to mention, who are you going to complain to? It’s a weekend! Folks with nonfunctioning TV’s won’t be able to complain to city hall or congress, they won’t be there. I’d urge the broadcasters to make sure extra phone lines and staff are standing by (you know how broadcasters usually work with a slimmer crew on the weekends). I'm betting money that crime will spike. Idle eyes and ears are the devils playground you know.

Sascha Meinrath has an hysterical picture on his blog regarding the DTV transition (it’s from you must check it out. Go to:

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