The FCC has run three days of workshops on the National Broadband Plan now, for the purpose of bringing a diverse set of perspectives on broadband technology and deployment issues to the attention of FCC staff. You can see the workshop agendas here. The collection of speakers is indeed richly varied. As you would expect, the session on eGov featured a number of government people and a larger collection of folks from the non-profit sector, all but one of whom has a distinctly left-of-center orientation. Grass-roots devolution arguments have a leftish and populist flavor, so who better to make the argument than people from left-of-center think tanks?
Similarly, the sessions on technology featured a diverse set of voices, but emphasized speakers with actual technology backgrounds. Despite the technology focus, a good number of non-technologists were included, such as media historian Sascha Meinrath, Dave Burstein, Amazon lobbyist Paul Misener, and veteran telephone regulator Mark Cooper. A number of the technology speakers came from the non-profit or university sector, such as Victor Frost of the National Science Foundation, Henning Schulzrinne of Columbia University and IETF, and Bill St. Arnaud of Canarie. The ISPs spanned the range of big operators such as Verizon and Comcast down to a ISPs with fewer than 2000 customers.
Given these facts, it’s a bit odd that some of the public interest groups are claiming to have been left out. There aren’t more than a small handful of genuine technologists working for the public interest groups; you can practically count them on one hand without using the thumb, and there’s no question that their point of view was well represented on the first three days of panels. Sascha Meinrath’s comments at the mobile wireless session on European hobbyist networks were quite entertaining, although not particularly serious. Claiming that “hub-and-spoke” networks are less scalable and efficient than wireless meshes is not credible.
The complaint has the feel of “working the refs” in a basketball game, not as much a legitimate complaint as a tactical move to crowd out the technical voices in the panels to come.
I hope the FCC rolls its collective eyes and calls the game as it sees it. Solid policy positions aren’t contradicted by sound technical analysis, they’re reinforced by it. The advocates shouldn’t fear the FCC’s search for good technical data, they should embrace it.
Let a thousand flowers bloom, folks.
Cross-posted at CircleID.