Saturday, February 12, 2011

$6B for Rural Broadband: Its About Time

If you've followed my Internet of Missing-Some-Things series, you know that one of the primary hurdles to the next phase of the M2M industry is a lack of "ubiquitous connectivity". Even if technology now allows for some sort of connectivity anywhere on earth, it is still too expensive to get a (good) Internet connection in a majority of the world. Even in the good 'ol US-of-A.

Broadband networks are still out of reach in much of deep rural America. Cellular towers are spreading, but they're expensive. And satellite is not only massively expensive, in most forms it is also extremely cumbersome to use and limited in its capability to operate as a normal network connection.

But this will change, and the Obama Administration recently gave it a big shove in the right direction in the form of a six Billion dollar proposal for rural broadband.

I don't care which side of the political fence you're on: It is pretty gosh-darn hard to argue that the FCC's Universal Service Fund hasn't played a huge role in America's technology leadership over the past century. The ability to build the first large-scale telephone networks would not have provided all the benefits it did if we had only included the urban population. Bringing phone lines to farmhouses in the middle of nowhere was simply too expensive even for a regulated monopoly like AT&T to handle back then.

But the world has moved on. I don't even HAVE a phone line at my house any more! Broadband is where everything is going.

Or has the world moved on? As someone who is currently trying to help a customer put smart devices in livestock barns, I've been re-introduced to the RJ-11. I can't remember the last time I worked on a system that used a regular modem. But while some of their customers can get a broadband connection, many still cannot.

As social/market pressure and new government regulation start forcing the agricultural industry to adopt more sophisticated mechanisms of tracking our food supply, getting data off the farm is going to be crucial. But the good 'ol phone line isn't going to cut the mustard. It is time to stop putting government money into an antiquated technology.

It is about time that this happened. Be sure to cheer on your elected officials.

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