The Good The Bad and The Ugly Of The National Broadband Plan

I am half way through the 376-page National Broadband Plan document that FCC submitted to The Congress a few weeks ago, and I already,  sense that we will be watching the 21th century version of the  classic 1966 movie – The Good The Bad And The Ugly soon. To enjoy reading the post,  you may want to play the clip below as you scroll down. There is no need to watch the video, as it is only the sound track 🙂

The Good
If everyone plays their cards right during the ten year plan, the National Broadband Plan will most likely boost the employment in the DC area as well as the rest of the nation.

The roadmap lays out a way for government and the telecom industry to “rise to our era’s infrastructure” challenge.  Such improvement would also significantly empower more small businesses to connect across our nation.

What I like about the plan  most, is the recognition of the importance of  wireless broadband – the call to find 500 megahertz of spectrum in the next 10 years. Wireless really has the ability as a practical matter to reach those millions of people currently living in places where connecting via fiber would be too expensive. Thus, wireless broadband connections are a viable alternative to getting them broadband access.

The Bad (in a good way)
The first immediate beneficiaries of course will be companies in the telecom service  sector like Verizon and Sprint, the infrastructure sector like  SBA, Alcatel-Lucent, and the tech sector like Cisco and Juniper.

More mobile-phone towers are likely to be built, benefiting companies such as American Tower and Crown Castle International.

Other companies that will benefit from all this, are the ones that sell to the wireless providers. With such high bandwidth, we will be doing more and more searches so that should also be a benefit to companies like Google and Yahoo.

And, the Ugly
My main concern with the plan is, that the 10-year program is not taking into account the technological changes that will alter the industry during the process. I can’t think of any specific change in the future at the moment, but I can remind you of many technological changes in the past like ISDN, DSL, Cable Modem, and wireless. One has been making the other one obsolete during the past ten years. Another recent example is WiMAX.  Billions of dollars  have been already going into WiMAX wireless, but it sounds like once LTE is out, WiMAX will become history. Not quite sure though. We shall see.

Certainly, the call for such spectrum in the next 10 years will lead to an epic lobbying battle as those whose spectrum is identified for reallocation gear up to fight against any loss of their turf. The plan will recommend that broadcasters be allowed to “voluntarily” relinquish unused spectrum in return for a share in proceeds from auctioning the airwaves’ use. Congress will be asked to authorize the sale – – basically asking broadcasters to give up airwaves in return for cash. If that approach fails, the FCC will hold its gun pointing at the broadcasters, dictating them how their transmission towers should work,  or even require them to provide channel sharing.

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About Elias Shams
I have been a serial entrepreneur in telecom and social media space for past 12 years or so. I hold a M.S. degree in Telecommunication Engineering from the George Washington University and a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland. I’ve lived and worked in many countries and cities including London England, Tehran Iran, Bonn Germany, Paris France, Alicante Spain, Delhi India, and my favorite of all Washington, DC of great US of A. Two of the greatest Washington, DC based companies I worked for and very proud of are Yurie Systems which was sold to Lucent in 1998 for $1.23 B and that I founded in 1999. I am currently the founder and awesomizer @

18 Responses to The Good The Bad and The Ugly Of The National Broadband Plan

  1. Agreed! This plan is just for companies to sell more consumer goods quicker. 😀

    • Elias Shams says:

      Well, that is not really a bad thing, my main concern is the ugly part of the articles – the companies that might get killed and the millions of $ for lobbying

  2. Fred Gnuechtel says:

    OK – its been said before, and I’ll say it again here. WiMax/LTE and Fiber are not even in the same solar system in terms of performance. Its great that wireless will (I hope) improve overall with WiMax nd LTE but, as you point out, this will depend on putting up a LOT more towers, and lighting them up. The folks that do this will not do it unless there is an economic incentive. Clear, selling WiMax sounds like a great deal at $55 a month for unlimited use. The problem is that this is at their slowest speed. The industry is watching what AT&T does with LTE – but I suspect that service will mark the end of the “unlimited” plans. Try getting an unlimited plan for a PC Data card these days – good luck on that one. It has been widly publisized that AT&T is having second thoughts about its unlimited plans for the iPhone.

    As a point of reference, I am in a high end developement not 30 miles from the center of Austin, TX and the very best I can do is HSDPA on AT&T at $50 a month for 5GB. I dont even want to think about what the fees are if I go over that limit.

    From what I see in the FCC document – there’s no help in there for me. I’ll keep saying my prayers that Verizon decides to light up fible (FIOS) out my way. I think Google is on a much better path than the FCC!

  3. You didn’t mention the bidding war to feed the current towers. This may benefit & hurt the ILECs. Towers currently fed by fiber will help as the upgrade costs will be low, but copper fed towers may more likely be a boon to the infrastructure companies as they will be able to bring in the fiber cheaper than the ILECs.

  4. Mara Ash says:

    I think the general public will benefit initially. Hopefully, well see leaps in education as every teacher and child in the US have access to more information. Then downstream, I would think that businesses would ultimately befefit. You will be able to reach untapped markets, without the costs of a shop on Mainstreet USA. The plusses for education and ecomony far outway any negative impacts.

  5. Joe Serra says:

    I guess AT&T, Comcast and the end users will be the big winners
    Basically, I think it’s a win win.

    What do you think?

  6. Keith Turcot says:

    I’m expecting the likes of AT&T and Verizon to lose by having their service (that they have been trying to differentiate themselves with) be driven further toward a low margin commodity.

  7. While rural communities will certainly benefit from access, some not-so-publicized elements have interesting advantages for those who loudly proclaimed they were not participating:
    Take the Universal Service Fund or – more explicity, more tax for the average user: the USF is a fee collected on cable and telecom and wireless to ensure communications services for all – cheaper rates for schools and libraries, basic servic for elderly and poverty level populations. Who pays – it’s a passthrough so that your cable, mobile, telecom are all going to go up. Who will benefit – the new tax is to build a “national security” comms network and the builder or purveyor will be a major gov contractor or an existing carrier or a partnership of the two.
    The benefactors – the companies who are fighting the plans of the same rural areas or cities to roll out the networks or applicaitons they need to work; the companies, under guise of altruism, who are the silent partner backbone providers for so many of the broadband plans.
    Bottom line – the ultimate benefactors will be the major carriers who want to have their cake and eat it too.

  8. Probably will not stimulate jobs creation at the carriers. More likely to lead to additional local contractor work during infrastructure construction – the carriers will outsource and not take on long term employee expense. The local economy should experience a minor positive spike for the short term.

  9. I have yet to see an overview of the plan to reliably comment. But I’m familiar enough with the core issues to discuss them without offering predictions on who’ll be winners and losers.

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