America’s National Broadband plan seems predicated on the idea that smartphones can serve poor people. The cellcos are telling Wall Street’s financial analysts and the policy makers in Washington that there are more cell phone-based internet connections in the world than fixed wireless or wireline connections. But skeptics are starting to show that those cellphones may be underused, overpriced, and come with caps. Meanwhile, cellcos’ core businesses are threatened. Prices will rise and service caps will fall. Washington — and policymakers around the world — should allocate more resources and spectrum to services that deliver true internet, not the restricted walled garden of the cellcos.
This debate was central to the fascinating discussion at the State of Telecom event at Columbia’s Instititue of Tele-Information, held in mid-October. I attended the afternoon sessions.