Subpar Broadband Stifling Small Businesses?
BY Josh Spiro
The FCC estimates that it could cost more than $350 billion to wire the U.S. with high-speed Internet access.
From e-commerce and video conferencing to multimedia, businesses depend heavily on fast broadband connections to run their day-to-day operations. But many areas of the country, particularly rural and remote locations, still have insufficient speeds for these kinds of bandwidth-hogging transactions.
An Federal Communications Commission task force is considering an attempt to standardize broadband speeds of anywhere from 768Kbps to 100Mbps for the entire nation. However, many believe that 768bps will not be fast enough, while 100Mbps may be too expensive to implement. The estimated costs of these plans range from $20 billion to $350 billion.
"Both [speeds] are wrong, the real answer is in between," says Devon Koch, the owner of Foresthill, California-based wireless-broadband provider Exwire. "Let's choose a speed that's reasonable and that takes care of today's and tomorrow's needs, and can be done in a reasonable time frame."
Koch believes that the lower end of the broadband spectrum would leave customers unsatisfied and the higher end would make it unrealistic to expand the coverage as broadly as the FCC seems to want to.
But for some companies, faster is better. "The faster it gets, the better it is for our industry, says Mike Feuer, chief business officer of Mindsmack, a New York-based media design firm that produces video for the web.
Feuer believes there may be a solution for the FCC: "If they could come up with a new compression technique that would get more [data] through the wormhole," he says, "then we'd be able to get the kind of quality that we want."
Start-ups have a vested interest in getting the more rural areas of the country fully wired because areas away from urban centers are the cheapest places to start a business. "If you're a start-up, why would you incur the gigantic capital cost of renting space in a city," says Elliot Gold, president and teleconferencing analyst at TeleSpan Publishing, an Altadena, California-based publishing and consulting company, "when your customers are anywhere at the end of a wire."