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Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
May 7

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5/7/2010 6:00 AM  RssIcon

internet.jpgA recent article in Scientific American was discussing the FCC’s National Broadband Plan and that the commission had determined 100Mb/s was the minimum acceptable Internet speed for much of America. The author’s conclusion was that the FCC’s goal of providing 100Mb/s to 100 million rural, underprivileged and otherwise underserved households across the United States was basically bogus. Who really needs 100Mb/s anyway?

I have reliable 5Mb/s at my home in Kansas City. Would I like it to be faster? Sure. And I can have faster service — if I’m willing to pay for it. I choose not to.

And that’s where I’m coming down on another "do it for the children" government project. The desire for reliable and fast digital interconnectivity is understandable. Some rural folks don’t have either. But didn’t they choose to live 50 miles from the nearest urban center? If that means they have lower speeds or have to pay more for faster Internet service, so be it. Bet they don’t have a Redbox at the corner either. And because they don’t, does that represent another need government ought to fulfill?

When you examine President Obama’s NBP goals, I see four obvious themes. First, the plan’s entire premise is based on a self-defined spectrum crisis and that it’s the government’s job to fix any crisis.

Second, NBP authors have determined that because some groups have slower Internet speeds than do other groups, it’s the job of the FCC to remedy the inequity. The FCC has therefore decided everyone has a right to higher-speed Internet services.

Third, the way to provide higher-speed services is to take from someone else in order to transfer to those who don’t. Here is the plan.

Broadcasters, the FCC is going to take your channel, even if it means you go out of business. The chairman has said he hopes you’ll do it voluntarily. But if not, commissioner Copps has said that “all licenses come up for renewal.” You choose.

Fourth, the NBP is filled with new taxes.

From broadband users, the FCC will extract a tax. This will be an additional charge on your broadband bill. Sure, it may only be $1.00 per month at first. But soon it could increase to perhaps $13.00 per month, which is approximately the tax I now pay on my $19.95 per month telephone line. All this is because the FCC has determined that group A has less than group B. But there are more taxes coming.

A significant component of the FCC’s NBP is the “creation of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband wireless network.” The person in charge of building this network is Jennifer Manner, deputy bureau chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. Echoing the above (tax the haves) model, she said in her April 23 post that the NBP “suggests a public funding method, such as imposing a minimal public safety fee on all broadband users to fund the network’s ongoing costs and appropriate network improvement costs.” Emphasis added.

Oh, you didn’t know there were taxes in the FCC’s NBP?

Actually the word “tax” is mentioned in various ways only 69 times within the plan. “Revenue” gets mentioned 119 times. I tried to count the many other ways raising fees/taxes/revenue/money are mentioned in the plan, but gave up. However, it’s safe to assume there are more than several. Even though the FCC’s initial 2300-page broadband plan was finally boiled down to 376 pages, it’s basically filled with new taxes on Americans.

Back to my original point. I’m for everyone having all the high-speed Internet they want — but not at my expense. The real issue is that if you want something — be it a new car, high-speed Internet or an HDTV — go for it, but don’t expect me to help you pay for it.

And, if there’s a need to build out a new infrastructure, let private industry build it.

Gosh, that would be like what broadcasters did to implement digital television. I don’t recall a tax to fund my local station’s conversion to digital and HDTV. Do you?

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