Mark Goldberg


www.mhgoldberg.com





Too many pots; too little being served

We need more broadband.

People who aren’t connected need to get connected. Almost everyone who is already connected needs, or at least wants, to get connected faster and connect more devices to that faster connection.

So, I think it’s safe to say, “we need more broadband.”

The points of disagreement are found in trying to answer the question of “how do we get there?”

Over the past few weeks, I have written a number of posts looking at some of the arguments being set out. I think it’s worth your time to have a look at these posts:

But, of course I think it’s worth your time to follow those links and read those pieces. After all, I wrote them. There have been a lot of articles over the past few months – indeed over the past few decades – discussing broadband issues.

There is a real challenge for policy makers.

Despite everyone calling for more investment in rural broadband, and lots of levels of governments allocating money, there is a feeling that our wheels are spinning without getting us anywhere, or at least not moving fast enough toward the objective.

As we approach the Canada Day holiday, the mid-point of the year, it is pretty much too late for any of the government funding programs to have a material impact on rural broadband expansion in 2020. And, we still don’t seem to have any kind of focus on working to understand the factors that are standing in the way of broadband adoption among those who already have access to affordable connectivity.

Do we have too many layers of bureaucracy working on rural broadband funding programs? Despite multiple agencies at regional, provincial and federal levels, there just doesn’t seem to be enough progress being made.

Those spinning wheels, the “announcing a coming announcement” effect, led me to write last week’s “An easy way to increase rural broadband speeds”. That post describes a way for government to simply accelerate the already planned lowering of license fees for point-to-point radio spectrum, the kind of connection that rural broadband service providers use to connect their fixed wireless towers to their core networks. The government was already planning to lower the fees, recognizing that the current high rates for spectrum fees are inhibiting capacity expansion by rural ISPs.

Accelerating the spectrum fee reduction is a move that is consistent with a philosophy I have long espoused: for government to create an environment that encourages private sector investment and then get out of the way.

I wonder if broadband expansion is sometimes being inhibited, not stimulated, due to process delays associated with some of the government funding programs. When an ISP submits a proposal for funding, how often is work on that area frozen until a response is received?

Can our government agencies to do better? Can broadband programs be structured better? Are there more efficient ways to deal with allocating funding to stimulate supply? Will some of those efficiencies enable agencies to start work at stimulating demand, and not just supply?

With so many different agencies at every level of government creating broadband funding programs, I’m not sure it is a case of too many cooks stirring the pot; one might ask if we just might have too many pots, generating too much overhead and frankly, not delivering enough results.

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