Too little, too late from the federal broadband opportunity council

11 February 2017 by Steve Blum
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Received and filed.

It’s called a progress report, but there’s not much progress to report. And the safe bet is that the federal broadband opportunity council will go into hibernation, rather than continue with whatever progress it might have made. Nevertheless, the council published a valediction of its efforts as the Trump administration was walking in the door.

The council was formed in 2015, following Barack Obama’s community-broadband-king-for-a-day speech in Iowa in January of that year. It was a federal version of the California Broadband Council (CBC), which likewise attempts to bring high level officials together to coordinate broadband programs and policies. Unlike the CBC, which at least began its life with major decision makers at the table, the federal council leaped straight into mediocrity with a line up of middle managers from the deep bureaucracy.

There were a couple of genuine advances, such as making it much easier to use economic development administration grants for broadband planning and infrastructure projects, and the startling admission from the environmental protection agency that placing a fiber optic cable in an otherwise existing trench might not harm the environment. Might not. More on that tomorrow.

Otherwise, the report is mostly bureaucratic jargon larded with euphemisms for we’ll get around to it later. Consider…

“DOT encouraged…”
“GSA and BroadbandUSA have discussed…”
“BroadbandUSA…is beta testing…”
“ATJ engaged with NSF…although no ATJ-related proposals were selected for funding…”
“The Office of Educational Technology requested funding…”

Even definitive promises came to naught. The report said that “NTIA’s BroadbandUSA website will be relaunched in January 2017″, but here it is February and nothing has changed. Either the new website wasn’t as far along as the report indicated, or the incoming administration hit the delete button.

I’m betting it’s the latter: all the signals coming out of the white house and the FCC indicate that broadband infrastructure development is to be left to the private sector, in particular incumbent monopolists.