Vint Cerf, sometimes called the “father” of the Internet has three recommendations for how to use the tens of billions of dollars of funding that the government has made available for broadband.
Some funding should go toward education, Cerf told participants on a webcast organized by broadband grant funding portal Broadband.Money on Friday.
“Think about how this is going to be used,” Cerf said. “Are people equipped to use it?”
Internet Broadband Funding
Some of the money that the government has made available for broadband is earmarked for adoption and digital literacy and equity programs aimed at equipping people to use the internet. But Cerf sees another important element for these programs.
People need to be educated about risk factors and “what’s good, safe internet behavior,” he said.
Another of Cerf’s recommendations pertains to areas lacking good broadband service and where there is no business case for deploying broadband. Here, too, the government has already allocated funding – a large portion of total broadband funding.
But as the government awards funding to network operators to cover some deployment costs in these high-cost areas, Cerf said, administrators need to hold the operators’ feet to the fire.
According to Cerf, in the past, “we haven’t been able to get money into the hands of people who will get something built.”
He didn’t offer specifics, however.
In addition, Cerf argued that the government should “make sure that some funding goes into better measurement tools.”
This is an area of particular interest to Cerf, who helped establish a measurement lab for Google 10 years ago.
He noted issues with FCC Form 477 broadband availability data that have been well documented and which the commission is in the process of addressing. But he also raised other concerns.
He noted, for example, that speed test data collected by the FCC and other sources may not give an accurate indication of internet performance because internet users tend to run speed tests when they are unhappy and because the quality of the user’s Wi-Fi connection impacts the speeds experienced.
As an alternative, he said we “should be running background tests” on internet speeds in a manner that maintains user privacy and that can distinguish the performance of the access link from the user’s Wi-Fi performance.
Cerf expressed skepticism about mesh Wi-Fi, arguing that it adds hops to a connection, thereby slowing the connection.
Internet buffers also could be better designed, he said. He noted, for example, that when there is a discrepancy between the speeds that a long-haul connection and a local connection can support, buffers may become too full and must be emptied, worsening performance.
According to Cerf, some broadband providers are hiring outside companies to measure their network performance, and he argued that the providers should be required to share that information with those making decisions about broadband funding. That requirement could be imposed without requiring the information to be made public, he said.
In awarding internet broadband funding, decision makers also should look at alternatives to fiber middle mile connectivity for areas that are particularly costly to serve. He noted, for example, that research has been conducted on a point-to-point laser that could cover 10 kilometers and would cost $50,000 a pair in small quantities.
A replay of the webcast is available below:
Broadband.Money is assembling a community of industry stakeholders to discuss all of the many issues surrounding this historic broadband funding cycle.