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News and comments on community broadband networks, the communities deploying them and the technologies that support them. Published by Denise Frey and Al Bonnyman.

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Monday, January 19, 2004


North Carolina: Newspaper criticizes e-NC Authority, gets technology facts wrong

Speaking from the comfortable vantage point of folks living in a larger city that already has multiple broadband options, the editors of Jacksonville [North Carolina] Daily News, spoke out against the state's efforts to bring broadband access to less fortunate, smaller towns:

"The e-NC Authority is an example of state government stepping in to do a job that can be done quite well by the private sector.

The authority's mission is to make sure that economically distressed areas are getting high-speed Internet access. While the authority has undoubtedly brought broadband access to some areas that otherwise wouldn't currently have it, e-NC's successes do not justify the money that has been spent by the organization and its predecessor, the Rural Internet Access Authority.

The e-NC Authority is supposed to be patterned after the Rural Electric Authority, which decades ago brought electricity to many rural and hard-to-reach places. Of course, one of the jobs the REAs encountered was running the infrastructure - setting up the power lines - often times up mountains and other hard-to-reach places.

Broadband Internet providers don't have that problem. The infrastructure is already in place. Most broadband service is delivered either through cable or DSL. Cable Internet can be transmitted over cable television lines, which a lot of people already can access. And DSL is transmitted over telephone lines, which practically everybody can access.

As anyone familiar with DSL and cable TV technology will tell you, it takes more than just hooking up to existing wires. Cable TV systems may need to be rebuilt using hybrid fiber coax (HFC) technologies. Telephone company cables may need to be replaced or at least reworked. Cable TV and telephone companies have spent billions to upgrade their systems in attractive economic markets to offer broadband access.

Finally, I can't help noticing that it takes some gall for newspaper editors in Jacksonville, a town largely supported by the U.S. Marine Corps, to criticize government subsidies.


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