Exploring The Connected Nation Boondoggle
from the sneaky,-sneaky dept
Last year, we discussed whether or not Connected Nation broadband mapping group, was really just a big telco boondoggle designed to get gov’t money and allow telcos to avoid really providing broadband data. For some reason, politicians are absolutely in love with Connected Nation, though. When I was in Washington DC recently, they talked about it like it was the solution to our country’s broadband needs. That seems quite bizarre no matter how you look at it. First, it’s just a “mapping” organization and it’s run by the telcos themselves, allowing them to continue to fudge the data to make markets look a lot more competitive than they really are. And, yet, thanks to all the political love that goes out to Connected Nation, it looks like they’re about to get hundreds of millions of dollars in broadband stimulus money.
Broadband Reports points us to Art Brodsky’s “final warning” about Connected Nation, before we hand over tons of tax money to it, and it’s not pretty. He notes the ridiculousness of politicians complaining that the gov’t agency in charge of getting accurate maps has failed (solely because the telcos refuse to give them the data) and deciding the best “response” to this is to simply hand the whole project (and lots of money) over to the telcos who refused to give the data up in the first place:
The fruit is not the product of the state agency, however. Faison used his announcement to criticize e-NC: “Until now, we have not had a map showing street address availability of broadband. e-NC has generated maps based on information disclosed by the providers which are based on the average number of customers with broadband access in a wire center. Unfortunately, information provided in this fashion does not allow you to see where broadband is and where it is not, it does not allow you to see the holes in the Swiss cheese, and depending on the area the hole may be larger than the cheese.”
Note the circular logic here. Faison and other members of his committee are criticizing e-NC for their maps, which were based on information supplied, or not, as it were, by the telecom industry. The state agency has been hampered by AT&T’s unwillingness to supply broadband data and its insistence on a very restrictive non-disclosure agreement for information the company did supply.
Instead of pushing the industry to stop stonewalling e-NC, Faison and the others trashed e-NC’s work and commended the work of ? AT&T, the very company that hamstrung e-NC. Here is Faison?s praise for the industry: “In the face of legislation recommended by the Committee which would have required the providers to disclose precise information to the Legislature for our staff to generate a detailed map of availability, the providers have come together and collectively decided to provide the information through Connected Nation, to not only provide the “street address” map but also to make the map both accessible and interactive through the internet. Special recognition should be given to AT&T, Embarq, Sprint, Time Warner Cable, The Cable Association, the Telephone Co-op association, and Alltel for their work on this matter.”
Brodsky goes on to show a Connected Nation map, and note how useless it is in actually giving granular data, and then compares it to another group’s map, with much greater detail. I certainly agree that better data is important, but I have to admit I’m still somewhat confused as to what real problem we end up solving with mapping alone? Yes, it will give us more data to figure out just what the current situation is when it comes to broadband deployment, but that’s got little to do with actually improving our broadband infrastructure.