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Broadband's Never-ending Tale of Town and Country

Carl Weinschenk

One of the big ongoing areas of concern in telecommunications is the balance (or tension) between access to broadband in rural and non-rural (urban and suburban) areas. The precise nature of the issue shifts over time as wired and wireless capabilities change, but the basic issue remains the same.

Light Reading reports on comments by Tower Cloud CEO and President Ron Mudry at a site event this week. Mudry said that the biggest opportunity for mobile backhaul providers - the companies that bring traffic from cell towers to various concentration points within the network - will be in rural and small markets.

The story describes some of the differences between rural and other types of backhaul. A main takeaway of the piece is that more planets seem to be aligning for rural broadband. Indeed, this is reminiscent of the relationship between service providers and the small- and medium-size business market, which wasn't aggressively addressed until the enterprise market was more or less satiated.

The politicking around these issues shows no sign of abating, however. At the Cable Show last week in Chicago, Federal Communications Commissioner Julius Genachowski called on the industry to continue to eat into the percentage of Americans who aren't broadband customers. Genachowski said that the FCC will create the Broadband Adoption Task Force to help achieve this goal. While nothing in the report said that his comments or the nascent group is specifically aimed at rural users, it is clear that this group represents a sizeable choice of the target.

Another interesting twist is AT&T's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. IT Business Edge's Wayne Rash - writing in the case at eWeek - claims that support for approval of the merger among non-profits with an interest in rural broadband that is being garnered by a group called the Internet Innovation Alliance (IIA) is not quite on the level.


Rash reported that the new honorary chair of the group, former Democratic Congressman Rick Boucher, is a partner in a law firm, Sidley Austin, which represents AT&T. The telco also is a supporter of the IIA. Rash points out, however, that T-Mobile's assets are largely urban and the approval of the deal won't produce any obvious benefits for rural citizens. Therefore, he suggests, the supporters are being misled. (The IIA, whether it is on the level or not, offers a nice graphic of how broadband can benefit rural residents.)

Such grandstanding will continue, since rural and urban connectivity never will be equalized and the issue will continue to mobilize activists and service providers. Keeping a constant eye on the relationship between the two is important to ensure that the gap is kept as small as possible.


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