GigOm’s Paul Kapustka notes that Sen. Hillary Clinton is proposing a new fund and strategy for rural broadband deployment as part of her plan to “Restore the Promise of Rural America.”
Senator Clinton called for a Rural Regional Investment Program, which would provide equity investments to fund innovative opportunities and partnerships in rural areas.
Senator Clinton (D-NY) introduced legislation last week entitled The Rural Broadband Initiatives Act (S.1032). The bill would establish an Office of Rural Broadband Initiatives within the Department of Agriculture. It would also establish a Rural Broadband Innovation fund to explore and develop cutting edge broadband delivery technologies to reach underserved rural areas.
The Rural Broadband Initiatives Act. This legislation will extend and improve access to broadband services in small towns across America. It creates a policy and action framework to ensure that the federal government employs an effective and comprehensive strategy to deploy broadband service and access in the rural areas of the United States. The bill will also establish a Rural Broadband Innovation fund to explore and develop cutting edge broadband delivery technologies to reach underserved rural areas. The Rural Broadband Initiatives Act has been endorsed by the Communications Workers of America.
Providing cost/effective rural broadband and reducing waste in Universal Service Fees is a good platform — but the devil’s in the details.
It would be understandable if New York-based Verizon Communications tries to align itself with Clinton. That might also might imply a “walled garden”, cellular-run 700 MHz service, which could be politically risky (see DailyWireless: Verizon’s $6B Smackdown).
- John McCain seems to be aligning himself with Frontline Communications. Frontline Wireless would add another 10 MHz to the 12 Mhz already proposed to provide broadband for public service agencies. Frontline says their 22MHz of 700 MHz spectrum could be shared between consumers and public safety users and that consumers could be free to buy other devices (such as an iPhone for Treo) to access their services (or use software like Skype).
- Barack Obama might, out of principle, eschew a cellular-controlled approach to 700MHz. A Silicon Valley-backed group, including Google and Yahoo, might be a better fit. An alternative solution might include a plan for the licensed 700 MHz band (in rural areas), and unlicensed “white space” use (in cities). That approach could have popular support.
- How will John Edwards weigh in? Stay tuned.
The battle for rural broadband may also be a battle between cellular carriers and new entrants like Frontline, Cyren Call and Silicon Valley proponents like the DTV Coalition. Unfortunately, the whole issue is complicated, most voters never heard of the problem, and there is disagreement between first responders, end-users and cell companies. Sound bites could bite back.
A “commission” approach is the safest bet when big money is on the line.
Arguably, Frontline Communications could be the leading solution right now for rural broadband. It’s moderate and doesn’t require an act of Congress to impliment. But Cyren Call is a sophisticated player – don’t count them out.
Don’t discount Sprint and AT&T, either. Perhaps a plan merging aspects of Cyren Call’s shared 30 MHz with cellular’s “walled garden” could emerge. Cellular operators have the bucks (and the need) to bring 700MHz service under their control.
You could say Republicans tend to favor a cellular approach to rural broadband while Democrats tend to favor non-cellular operators. But Democrat Clinton and Republican McCain could disprove that rule of thumb. In the end a “commission” stance could be their solution. Advantage: Obama.
Related DailyWireless articles include; Frontline Files 700MHz Plan with FCC, FCC Firming Up 700MHz Rules?, Verizon’s $6B Smackdown, Alcatel Does EVDO in DC 700 MHz Net, Frontline’s 700MHz Pitch: Sharing is Good, Tom Ridge: Answer Cyren Call, Verizon Makes its Move for Universal Service Fund, National Broadband: Fee & Free, Pushing for “White Space”, Microsoft’s “Free” Phone?, Senate Testimony on 700MHz Sharing, FCC to Rural Users: 700MHz is the Ticket, McCain Wants Commercial 700 MHz for Police, State-wide Wireless Broadband Access, FCC’s 8th Report and Order, Joint Commecial/Muni Proposed for 700Mhz and Oregon’s $500 Million Statewide Wireless Network.