Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Reinvigorating the Web: FCC Pushes for Open U.S. Broadband Wireless Access

While Silicon Valley figure Mark Cuban mutters that the Internet is dead the real concern should be about how United States markets for Web publishing have begun to stagnate in recent years as overseas markets are gaining steam. While broadband Web access is available to about half of U.S. residents according to recent research, nations such as South Korea and Finland have been much more aggressive in pushing for universal access to broadband services., with China coming into its own rapidly. This gap in access is accentuated in mobile markets, where U.S.-based media producers have tied up with various telecommunications companies to license content through mobile carriers' private channels. In focusing on these short-term deals publishers lost momentum towards more widespread access to their content via mobile channels that could have added significantly to their audience base.

The Federal Communications Commission hopes to undo some of this backwardness by creating consumer-friendly rules for the radio frequencies being freed up for broadband wireless Internet access when analog U.S. television signals go off the air in 2009. USA today notes that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is proposing new rules for this newly auctioned spectrum to use any wireless device to download any mobile broadband application, without restrictions. In other words the new mobile broadband coverage would preclude private deals for the distribution of intellectual property based on networks and mobile devices. Private deals would still be allowed via existing mobile channels, but the generally open framework of the Web would finally be available via mobile devices in the U.S.

This is a very positive move for the publishing industry, one which will accelerate rapidly their ability to reach audiences electronically and to broaden their market reach rapidly. With revenues dwindling rapidly in print publishing for all but the most esoteric or base interests publishers are faced with a widening gap in their top and bottom lines as online markets fail to grow penetration into a full-blown marketplace. Universal mobile broadband access will eliminate the barriers of entry into mobile markets for publishers, enabling them to push more aggressively into many of the lifestyle niches being abandoned in print format in favor of mobile content and to reach less affluent markets that will be able to use mobile devices as their primary Web access point if in-home access is not cost-effective.

It's appropriate that these frequencies being readied for new uses were the original backbone of the broadcast television industry. Just as broadcast television created vast new opportunities for entertainment, information and marketing the new broadband wireless capabilities will enable the U.S. to create a new universal access medium for enabling communications with its citizens. And unlike the broadcast television era the advent of social media will enable people to reach out to one another as well as to merchants and services providers as never before. Broadband wireless access has already enabled this for people in select locations on select networks, but the establishment of broadband wireless Internet access as the common denominator for American communications promises a bright future for all.
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