High fibre not for everyone

Washington PostAn article in Sunday’s Washington Post has some good commentary on why fibre doesn’t necessarily belong in every diet.

I remember a basic systems engineering principle that says most people define their requirements in terms of a familiar solution, rather than looking at the real requirements.

As a result, it is common for governments to say that they need fibre – defining fibre as a requirement, rather than a solution. In doing so, they restrict the degrees of freedom for solutions that could be innovative and more cost effective.

Look at this quote from Mitsuko Herrera, cable and broadband administrator in one of the counties seeking $130M from the US stimulus pork barrel and tell me what is wrong:

We’re looking at rural businesses. We have family farms — only half of them have Web sites. Once you get fiber optics, you can build a Web site . . . to match people who grow locally with people who want to eat local food.

Does this broadband administrator really expect each farm to become its own website host?

Australia – spending more than $40B of taxpayers money on its national broadband program – has recognized that 10% of the population will not be connected with wireline solutions.

In the Post article, a representative of Hughes Network Systems points out that fiber-optic connections are not particularly cost-effective, especially in sparsely populated rural areas.

I have frequently written about the role of fixed wireless and satellite broadband in allowing Canada to already boast 100% availability of broadband. Wireline solutions provide coverage to around 94% of the Canadian population, already ahead of Australia’s ultimate objective.

Broadband availability is only one side of the question.

Broadband adoption is an issue that needs to be a focus. It is a concern for urban and rural Canada. We need to develop a greater understanding of what are the factors that keep people from getting connected.

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