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Blog Posts by Jonathan Chambers

Notes from the Sandbox: The Rural Broadband Experiment

by Jonathan Chambers, Chief, Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis
March 11, 2014

In his office at home, the Chairman of the FCC keeps a slice of an old C&P telephone pole, a small piece of history commemorating the Pole Attachments Act of 1978. It is a reminder of the physical nature of networks. The networks that carry my observations to you are physical and tangible – poles, ducts, conduits, wires, antennae on towers, nondescript buildings housing cables, routers, servers, generators and cooling units, and, of course, glass, millions of miles of glass.

That slice of telephone pole is also a reminder of how networks are built, and how an occasional nudge from the government can make a difference. I was fortunate enough to know some of the pioneers in cable and wireless when I worked with them in the 1990s. They were the ones who had climbed poles, the ones who had spliced cable and dug trenches and connected communities to the rest of the world, one community at a time. The cable pioneers built networks in rural areas where a television set couldn’t pick up a broadcast signal. First, they provided their communities with basic television service and then something interesting happened. They showed the country that cable television wasn’t a service just for rural communities – that with a new type of network you could watch more than local broadcast television. Those early pole climbers first helped themselves and their communities and then showed the rest of us what was possible.

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