The FCC is proposing a "National Broadband Plan" that would have 100 million homes hitting 100Mbps speeds in 10 years. While the plan itself has both its critics and supporters, as well as optimists and pessimists regarding its chances of success, I still have to wonder if it wouldn't be more realistic and useful to direct broadband expansion to schools, hospitals, and other institutions rather than to home users.
As PC Magazine notes,
[FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski] points out that various Internet apps that aren't feasible today, such as numerous health care and educational uses, would be enabled by ubiquitous, super-fast broadband.
I don't think that a plan that excludes 20% of American households counts as ubiquitous, although it would obviously be a drastic improvement over the state of US broadband. However, what if the first rounds of funding and government action focused on those institutions where high-speed internet connections would be the most useful? Video resources for learning, telemedicine, cloud-based applications for business incubators, innovative applications for connecting students to teachers and resources around the world...you get the idea.
Of course I'd love to have 100Mbps broadband coming into my home. I'd much rather have it coming into my local community hospital, though, so that doctors there could access state-of-the-art consultation or even robotic surgery conducted by doctors in Boston. I'd much rather have it come into my fantasy datacenter or my various schools so that desktop virtualization out in the cloud could be a reality.
In actuality, a more focused approach would allow for much higher speeds concentrated at important hubs within a community and allow extraordinary innovation in the way we teach our students. At the same time, infrastructure to support these projects would clearly offer speed increases to consumers who will ultimately see important benefits. Schools and other community centers, though, could benefit right now from major speed increases and improved affordability. These same community hubs would directly serve large swaths of the population, helping the FCC achieve its goals while prioritizing those groups who can most directly benefit immediately.
Anyone at the FCC listening?