Something about broadband is a laughing matter

2 April 2016 by Steve Blum
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The good stuff is no joke.

It was hard to tell which post on the Google Fiber blog yesterday was the April Fool’s joke, and which was the sober look at the world ahead. On the one hand, a Google engineer, Pál Takácsi, reflected on the need to boost broadband speeds by a billion times

While gigabit speeds are fast, we have come across an application where 1,000 Mbps is actually quite slow. Terribly slow. Research organizations that wish to remain anonymous have been working on an application that would enable the teleportation of a 160 pound person a distance of 60 miles in 1.2 seconds. This application requires a tremendous amount of bandwidth, because a 160-pound person represents a vast amount of data.

I believe it. It took a whole starship worth of memory to store Scotty in a pattern buffer for 100 years, before being rescued by that bald guy’s Enterprise. Try doing that on your DSL connection.

On the other hand, another post lavished praise on the FCC’s new broadband lifeline program

Yesterday, the FCC adopted its Lifeline modernization order, an essential move to encouraging broadband adoption nationwide. Until now, Lifeline has provided funds to enable providers to deliver voice service to consumers at affordable rates…For the first time, low-income consumers can apply the $9.25 Lifeline subsidy to lower the cost of qualifying broadband plans.

Except no one at Google should have seen the actual order, which is now reported to have grown to 200 pages, up from 150 earlier last month. The FCC put out a happy, happy, joy, joy press release, but so far has kept the details secret.

Let’s save the celebration until we’ve read the fine print. Lifeline subsidies for broadband service are a fine thing, but doing it poorly can do more harm than good. As a wise man once said, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.