Monday, November 22, 2010

Does Verizon's 150 Mbps FiOS Spell Disaster for Rural America

You might not think there could be any downside to Verizon's rollout of150 Mbps FiOS service, but you'd be wrong, at least in the minds of many Americans who, like me, live in rural areas that have no broadband service.

What's the downside? Something I've dubbed the rural death spiral, wherein people leave rural areas because they have no broadband, leading to a decline in property values because very few people want to buy a house that lacks broadband, even if they are not Internet users themselves (few people do, or should, buy a house without thinking of its resale value, which depends, in part, on broad appeal, not just appealing to the few people left in America for whom broadband is unappealing).

And as property values fall, so do local tax revenues, leading to declines in services, schools, and infrastructure maintenance, leading to further population declines, and further property value declines. A spiral headed down.

How does the new Verizon FiOS offering play into this? It highlights the fact that Verizon's focus is on high-end urban broadband, not rural communications. I suspect that Verizon would love to stop providing me and my neighbors with landline phone service if they could (thank Congress there has been a law on the books for decades that requires them to keep the lines working but who knows how long that will withstand lobbying pressure in the new Congress).

The other factor is the push that FiOS gives to broadband assumptions. More and more companies assume that people have more and more broadband. Last week Apple cheerfully issued a 680Mb operating system upgrade as an online patch. Try installing that without broadband!

Our government increasingly employs video and PDF documents to inform its citizenry, assuming they have broadband. I've been paying for a NetFlix "movies-by-mail" account that includes streaming video, which is not going to happen without broadband, and so on. You can forgive rural residents for think faster FiOS is one more nail in the coffin for communities that lack broadband.

Verizon FiOS Speeds Up To 150 Mbps | News & Opinion | PCMag.com