Why The Stimulus Speed Upgrades Are Right, Or Public Utility Meets Zeno's Paradox.

Many folks talk about broadband build out as if it were rural electrification. I do agree with this in one sense — it is a critical part of our infrastructure and links to our tradition of ensuring that we remain one country with access to vital services for all. In this respect, broadband is similar to telephone/voice, electric power, sewage, roads, and other other public utility/natural monopoly type investments. But it is fundamentally different from all of these in a fundamental way. Other public utilities have high initial construction cost, but then have very predictable maintenance and upgrade costs. This makes it possible to solve some problems with a huge one-time grant or, for the private sector to make a serious cap ex investment, but then budget for regular upgrades based on projected need and maintenance based on standard depreciation.

Not so broadband. As our technological capacity increases, we increase both the potential capacity for the network and our capacity to use the network in unpredictable ways. But we have neither public policy nor private sector models that acknowledge this — with the possible exception of Verizon, which solved the problem from their perspective by aggressively pulling fiber/overbuilding capacity as to current demand where profitable and aggressively selling off high cost rural regions. And, while that works for Verizon and its shareholders, it rather sucks from a public policy perspective.

I call this the Zeno’s Broadband Buildout Problem. No matter how much Achilles invests in build out, he will never catch up to the limit of possible upgrades. As I explain below, my tentative conclusion is that the right public policy result is a recognition that we don’t get to do a one time investment and go away, but need to continue to experiment to find sustainable models that factor in growth rather than simply look at build out followed by steady state. I’m not sure beyond that, other than my conviction that anyone who shrugs and says “that’s why the government shouldn’t do this at all” is definitely wrong.

OTOH, it also means I find the speed upgrade in the stimulus package — 45/15 for wireline and 3/1 for wireless — pretty good despite the fact that many of us want to reach the 100 mbps or even 1 gigabit/second capacity for future network needs. Broadband Achillies may not be able to catch up to Bandwidth Demand Tortois, but that doesn’t mean he gets to slack off either. A good swift stimulus in the patootie is actually a pretty good idea, given the open ended nature of the problem.

More below . . . .

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This Week I Get My Wonk On, Next Week I Am A Free Man.

Passover comes late this year. It doesn’t start until Saturday night, April 19. Getting ready for Passover is a phenomenal pain in the rear end, because it involves all sort of complicated cleaning things. So this time of year is really busy for us true believer types.

Which is why the Good Lord has made it such a plentiful season for critical hearings. This week on Tuesday morning, I will testify before the House Telecom Subcommittee at the incredibly crowded second panel on the 700 MHz Auction aftermath. Then it’s out to California to catch the FCC Hearing on Network Management (official witness list still not posted, but my name turned up in Comm Daily on the short list).

Mind you, I am extremely happy to have the opportunity to testify before the House and all that. Indeed, given how much I’ve lived these things (especially the spectrum stuff), I’d be really miffed if I didn’t get a chance to speak my piece. I just wish it could be a little, y’know, less hectic.

At least I will be able to say with conviction at my Passover celebration “Now I am a free man.”

Stay tuned . . .

Romney Bows Out

Mitt Romney, the candidate widely considered an animatronic phony and opportunistic carpetbagger, has bowed out of the race for the Republican nomination. Well, good. The idea of Romney in the White House was scary.

But he’s not all bad. If he ran for Governor of Massachusetts again I would probably vote for him. And I’ve only voted for two Republicans ever, for any office, since the first time I voted 1972.

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Hooray for Libby Conviction!

Just a note to celebrate the conviction of Shooter Cheney’s loyal underling Lewis Libby, a lying weasle if ever there was one (not to mention a purveyor of kiddie porn –see is “novel”). As expected, the corporate media are working overtime to spread the meme that some kind of injustice was done to poor ol’ Scooter. Well, that’s a syndrome we know well here at Wetmachine. Nobody expected Moloch to whither away after one little conviction, nor Bush neither. Nevertheless we can take joy that one soldier of the Bush crime family has been at least temporarily sidelined.

For a great analysis of the right wing/Bushista/corporate infotainment spin, see this helpful post at premiere site Firedoglake. And if you have a few pennies to throw in the direction of that stellar group of citizen journalists, by all means do so. They’re fighting a brave battle on behalf of all of us.

P.S. This FDL post about the role played by NPR’s “All Things Considered” in shilling for the administration is also well worth your while.