As you might very easily presume about me, I’m a strong proponent of advancing broadband and wireless Web access in the United States. So, when I learned that the DC government (using federal stimulus funding) launched their new high-speed, 100 Gb/s fiber-optic network, DC Community Access Network (DC-CAN), I was pretty excited. What’s 100 Gb/s? Let’s say you were sitting at your computer, hooked up to router that could actually pipe 100 Gb/s to your computer without frying the hard drive, and you were going to download a full-length feature film to your computer to view. It would download so quickly, your processor would need to catch up with the data speed and it’d download in about the blink of an eye (literally, ergo about 400 milliseconds). With that kind of power now lit up in our Nation’s Capital, we’ll have greater broadband access for luring tech companies, will establish a stronger connection to our municipal government services for its taxpayers, and residents (including many work-at-home Small Business owners) and businesses will have better access and competition in the Internet services market. Enter the problem: this won’t actually do any of that.
Once you read the fine print of what Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray and his administration say, you find that the network will only be given access to the municipal government right now. How is that supposed to spur economic development and attract new and growing businesses (especially tech companies) to the Metropolitan Washington area? And, with even the network available to the municipal government only, the agencies really haven’t been planning all that well to use the network yet (at least not publicly and without the polity’s inclusion). With the slow to nonexistent use of DC-CAN by municipal agencies, the services needing access on the W3 by taxpayers (businesses and residents, alike) continues to be limited on both sides. Ultimately, programs like this should benefit the People; and we know that it’s the “last mile” that really needs solving (which I personally believe should be using Mobile to fix) and this DC government project doesn’t quite address the challenge at its core. From the various news outlets that reported on it, it sounds like the “digital divide” isn’t budging anywhere for the better, since it relaxes some of the regulations and infrastructure hurdles for the telecommunications industry but you can bet that residential and commercial denizens won’t see any reduction in pricing or availability any time soon. I won’t even get into my main complaint about the problems of degradation of fiber-optic networks like DC-CAN, since the main problems (of limited government access and implementation, no economic development plan in place, and no greater competition in the market to benefit Small Business) makes this project in serious need of re-assessment in my opinion.
What do you think the DC government should do with DC CAN to improve the digital divide and help Small Business owners? What programs are available in your city, county or state, and how can they be improved?