Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Where is the Bathroom, Please?

I love international travel, or any travel for that matter. But going to a country where the culture is different, the language is different and the sites are different from what I am used to, is particularly romantic. The challenge, of course, is in the language. I don’t like having to rely on the good likelihood that I will find English speakers. I like trying to muddle my way, however badly through the host country’s language. I speak a bit of Spanish and read a bit of French and have found if someone speaks to me in French, I automatically respond in Spanish (who knows why). Several years ago when I went to Greece, I listened to tapes for months and months and realized I wasn’t getting it. I finally decided the one phrase you should always know in any language is “Where is the bathroom, please?”

It is no surprise that the National Cable Telecommunications Association (NCTA) produced a white paper on broadband deployment that read like Greek to me. The “Moving the Needle on Broadband: Stimulus Strategies to Spur Adoption and Extend Access Across America” whitepaper is a loving testimony to cable broadband deployment. Between 1996 and 2008, Cable has spent, according to the report, “more than $145 billion in capital to enhance their hybrid fiber-coaxial networks.” In 2008 alone, cable spent $14.6 billion and plans on spending about that same amount in 2009. So why step up to the plate to issue a document regarding the federal government’s plan to spend a paltry 4% of what cable has spent? That 4% is a blip, a speck, a fly in the ointment, if you will.

It’s in the report.

“First, the grants should be used to increase broadband adoption and use;

Second, the grants should be competitively and technologically neutral so as not to affect the private marketplace that must continue to take the lead in broadband deployment;

Third, the grants should further the statutory goal of economic stimulus, that is, they should fund value-producing projects that can be implemented quickly and create new jobs;

and

Fourth, it is essential, as well as statutorily mandated, that the grant-making programs be transparent, accountable, and coordinated with other agencies providing similar aid.”

And it bears translation. Let me take them one at a time.

“First, the grants should be used to increase broadband adoption and use.”

In other words, according to the report, there are 35 million households that have access to the broadband we the cable industry has built, but they aren’t buying our services. If we could get these people the proper computers and have the federal government subsidize the $50 a month we charge for cable modem, can you imagine how much money we will make?

Δεν βρέθηκαν λέξεις.

“Second, the grants should be competitively and technologically neutral so as not to affect the private marketplace that must continue to take the lead in broadband deployment.”

This roughly translates into: “We have done our best in state after state to kill municipal broadband deployment. Do you know how much money we’ve had to spend on lobbying alone? Our efforts have been quite successful and we want it to stay that way and even though we’re only talking about $7 billion, can you imagine what those yokels out in Indiana will do if they get there hands on some of that dough? They’ll build their own networks, charge people less than half and provide speeds that rock while maintaining net neutrality.”

¿Dónde está el baño, por favor?

“Third, the grants should further the statutory goal of economic stimulus, that is, they should fund value-producing projects that can be implemented quickly and create new jobs.”

This means “Our stocks have been sucky lately and we’ve spent way too much money on lobbying for statewide franchising and we’ve had to lay off a few thousand people. That $7 billion would go a long way in helping us re-hire some of those folks and we could still keep spending millions on greasing politicians and luxury retreats for upper management.”

Wo das Badezimmer bitte ist?

And last,

“Fourth, it is essential, as well as statutorily mandated, that the grant-making programs be
transparent, accountable, and coordinated with other agencies providing similar aid.”

I had a bit of trouble with this one, so let me give it a go. I believe they are saying “that while we have retained the right in various states to not even report where we are building out, cloaking it as proprietary information that might give our competitors an advantage, we demand that the federal government report to us, the cable industry, what they are doing and why they are doing it.”

Does that make sense? Did I get the general tone of the language and inflection? It’s the conjugations that always give me trouble.

목욕탕은 어디에 있는가?

Oh, and the paper also states:

“In defining geographic areas that represent “unserved areas,” agencies should rely on the FCC’s definition of broadband which would denote areas where there is not at least one provider providing Internet access service of at least 200 kbps in one direction.”

I think that’s a generous definition, don’t you?

Где ванная комната пожалуйста?

Ah yes, it’s great to be well traveled, sophisticated and knowledgeable in the ways of the world. And it’s equally important to be able to find the bathroom because you never know what you might have to flush down the toilet.

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3 comments:

CableTechTalk said...

Well, this is all wonderfully snarky, but it sounds like you didn't actually read the paper.

You mock increasing broadband adoption & use. Only about 61% of U.S. households subscribe to broadband service, and 70% of households headed by someone under 65 years of age receive broadband service. More than 20% of households don't even have computers. This might be due to pricing or it might be due to disinterest. Don't you think it would be helpful to address demand?

As for the neutrality aspect, we don't think the government should pick winners and losers, instead of letting the free market do so. We also think that the proper place to use funds to add broadband is first in places that have no providers at all.

Don't you think that the grants should be used for economic stimulus? Wasn't that the point?

And you don't think that government programs should be transparent and accountable?

Your translation seems to be "Whatever the cable industry said, we should just assume it is all about furthering their greed." I'd be more interested in what you think of our actual proposals. What are the parts that you don't think are worthy principles?

MSAtelecom said...

CableTechTalk said:

"We don't think the government should pick winners and losers, instead of letting the free market do so."

CTT, just what dream world do you live in, and do I need a passport to go there? I'm sure that I'll need to learn the language, since your brand of English doesn't make sense to me.

In case you didn't know, the government picks winners and losers every day--its called legislation. Let me take it one step further. The courts pick winners and losers every day. The process is called a verdict.

Yes, the free market picks winners and losers too, but the market has become twisted and distorted to the point of serious suspicion. Do really trust it these days?

CableTechTalk said...

I would certainly agree that the free market is not a perfect mechanism at all. But the Internet was able to flourish specifically because the government let it develop on its own.

The blogosphere is not regulated, which has allowed anyone to enter the publishing arena. Would that content area have developed better if the government had picked winners & losers through legislation?

I understand that some people think fostering competition is the most important goal; in part, they think that doing so will drive down prices. But increased competition will not automatically lead to greater speeds or lower prices, which means that money would have been wasted. We think a better goal would be to use funding or grants to bring broadband to underserved or unserved areas.