Google Fiber has teamed up with the Housing and Urban Development department to be a source for Internet access under president Obama’s ConnectHome initiative.
ConnectHome is the latest Federal Government program to impact the way infrastructure is built and the way data is transmitted and received based on race, age, gender, location and economic status. Last week, the president stated that disparity in these factors have created a ‘Digital Divide’ in the United States, and economic disadvantage of Americans who live in public housing is how Google intends to add their effort.
ConnectHome is a program that should have never been conceived, especially in the United States. Everyone should have access to affordable broadband internet. Unfortunately, the ROI on building infrastructure in less populated areas is also less profitable. And remote areas or areas where broadband providers feel the economic situation will not bring enough revenue to cover the investment of digging, installing and building, also mitigates them from doing so. Therefore, the American taxpayer will be billed for what it will cost to bring broadband to the last 3%.
In their blog, team Google Fiber said some things that I like.
We realize, though, that providing an Internet connection is just one piece of the puzzle. People can only take advantage of the many benefits of the web when they understand why it matters and know how to use it. That’s why we’ll also partner with ConnectHome and local community groups to develop basic computer skills training and create computer labs to host these trainings in each of our Fiber markets.
But basic computer skills won’t do what needs to be done for this program to succeed as defined by the objectives set last week.
President Obama, in his address on conquering the digital divide last week, seemed to believe that making the technology available is the key to better economic status and more opportunity to those who do not have fast internet connections. But nothing could be further from the truth. Giving people Space Shuttles won’t make them Astronauts.
The real ‘Digital Divide’ is the disparity between content creators, and content consumers. If you want to provide disadvantaged people the ability to obtain better economic status and truly want them to have more opportunity, teach them to be content creators. Without an initiative that puts the priority on the importance of content creation and how to be a content creator before providing no-cost broadband connections, the program is designed to fail. People who haven’t been exposed to or don’t understand what makes the Internet ‘The Internet’, will obviously migrate to content consumption. This benefits big businesses Netflix and Hulu. I’m not sure if the Tax Payer is interested in helping Ron Hastings get more Netflix subscribers. Ironically, providing some Americans with free Internet access at blazing speeds while other Americans suffer with paying for slower connections puts the Government at risk for violating the FCC’s net neutrality guidelines. It’s a slap in the face to think tax payers will be footing the bill for both.
Finally, there are issues with privacy and with vision in this endeavour.
Americans should have access to broadband internet connections, period. Not just at home. Everywhere. If you are going to provide high-speed Internet for people, why would you only allow them to have it at home? In his address, President Obama talked about how wearables and mobile devices with broadband connections do great things for people on a daily basis. If that is the litmus test for success, why not start there in a new program? Why chain people to their homes? If connections help people obtain better economic status, then provide them with the means to achieve better economic status where ever they are, not just at home. If the Government is comfortable with the way Google handles the private data of Americans and is going to fund building infrastructure then it should go with Fi, not Fiber.
By funding wireless infrastructure in remote areas, other Americans can also use that infrastructure when they visit these areas. And if the requirement for infrastructure is packet-switched, provides 100Mbit-1Gbit speeds, broadband aggregation and other 4G requirements, then the President can establish his legacy as the guy who actually understands what 4G is, and set the standard for what is expected from other Wireless carriers. This would force carriers to put a priority on circuit to packet switch conversion, finally creating an all-IPv6 network America.
That is a program that would benefit every American.