Friday, August 22, 2008

Wireless Access Is Like Healthcare Debate

A couple of days ago, in an interview with USA Today, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said he would like to see wireless broadband access for all of the US, particularly rural areas.  As Martin put it, it's a social obligation.  As some people believe it, it is a necessity for the twenty first century.
While noble endeavor, there are issues that needs to be resolved before this can go forward.  What does Martin want the FCC to accomplish?
  • FCC is particular concerned about the rural area being left behind where Sat broadband and dial-ups dominate.
  • Will want to use wireless spectrum to bridge gap between rural and urban areas.
  • Will want only 25% of this block of spectrum be used to offer free wireless.
  • This spectrum is known as AWS-3.  
  • T-Mobile, who paid for AWS-1 believes this will disrupt their services.
  • FCC engineers are working on interference issues.  
  • The universal service fund will be used to subsidize cost for lower-income families - traditional phone companies operating in rural areas will object because they draw on the fund to offset costs (or pad profits).
Just how successful can Chairman Martin be? 
Well, if this is going to be anything like healthcare, not very.  Here is why I think this will be like health care.  Going forward, wireless technology will revolutionize everything we do and how we do it.  Specifically, the how we will do it is the most important aspect about mobility.

There will be billions at stake.  Consider the two camps in health care.  One wants a government sponsored healthcare while the other wants no government involvement but liberalizing the laws to allow for great competition to keep cost down and, hopefully, better care in the process.

Now back to wireless.  On one side, there is the side of the telecoms who believes competition and a hands off approach from the FCC and other government entities (hint, hint...Congress) will foster innovation and lower costs.  On the other hand, there are those who are pushing for free access for everyone.

Free access is to government sponsored healthcare as is private insurances competing for our business is to telecoms competing to for our wireless business.

In the United States, we abhor big government and the fiscal conservatives makes sure we don't forget it.  But we are also a charitable people.  There is a sense also that we are falling behind in areas of technology.  With a society that is connected literally and figuratively, the US can only be in a better position in a global economy that requires instant information and a workforce that is well versed with the right skills and tools to compete effectively.

Good luck.  Love to see it happen finally.  There definitely is a middle ground to make it happen.  We just need the will to make it so.

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