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The Man Who Wrote the Broadband Book Debates the Man with the Broadband Plan

There is a very interesting debate going on between analyst Craig Settles and Blair Levin, the architecture of the National Broadband plan on the future and application of the Plan. Levin’s reply to a post from Craig, inserted in the posting below, was rebutted by Craig on GigaOm last week.  Check it out . Start here with Blair’s response:In Defense of the National Broadband Plan, by Blair Levin, I’m grateful that Craig Settles responded to my offer to debate the National Broadband Plan in his column earlier this week. In such a discussion, it’s important to be clear about where we agree and disagree. In this case, the disagreements appear rooted in Mr. Settles’ apparent unfamiliarity with the National Broadband Plan, his lack of understanding the mechanics of the current Universal Service Fund, and his unwillingness to engage in the standard incremental cost/benefit analysis that Congress expects.

Mr. Settles first critiques the plan’s proposal to set the minimal level of broadband speed to be subsidized through the Universal Service Fund. He notes that I asked any critic to answer three questions: What is the minimum speed to be subsidized; how much will it cost; and how will we pay for it? He doesn’t answer any of these questions.

To the first, he says it’s a “trick question,” as the goal isn’t speed. We agree speed isn’t the ultimate goal, as he notes later. But it is an essential, rather than a trick, question. If the federal government is going to subsidize networks in areas where market forces won’t do the trick, then the government has to establish a technical standard for what is being subsidized. Mr. Settles refusing to answer the question of what that standard should be suggests he doesn’t understand that without such a standard, the government could end up subsidizing narrowband speeds, an outcome I’m sure he would not favor.

To the second question  – What would it cost? — he says, “one hellava a lot.” That answer might work for Mr. Settles’ work. I think, however, Congress and the American people deserve a more meaningful answer. For people interested in how the plan provided specific answers for a variety of scenarios, I would refer them to the 137-page technical appendix to the plan found here.

READ MORE at GigaOM

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