Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski did his best to sell the agency’s upcoming National Broadband Plan to country music and country radio fans this week—both on and off the ‘Net. The Plan is due to be released this Tuesday—a blueprint for how to speed up high speed Internet adoption across the country.
“What will the National Broadband Plan mean for this marketplace of artists, radio station owners, Internet entrepreneurs, and music lovers?” he asked at a meeting of the Country Music Association’s Board of Directors on Wednesday. The answer is that it will get more rural country music lovers on line.
One thing is for sure, Genachowski had a good time delivering this pitch . “You thought I was going to say something about my wife leaving me, my dog and my truck, didn’t you?” the FCC’s boss asked the Board.
But seriously folks, the meat and potatoes of the talk was that the venues for selling country music are going to the Internet. The challenge is to get the country music market to the ‘Net too, Genachowski explained:
“Wal-Mart, who is by far the largest seller of country music, continues to cut down on floor space for CDs.
Why? Well, people increasingly buy music online.
However, according to a CMA survey last June, only 50 percent of core country fans have Internet access at home.
This is, in part, a deployment issue that our National Broadband Plan intends to tackle through a reform of the Universal Service fund. The Plan is intended to get broadband deployed to unserved households around the nation over the next several years. But part of the problem is also an ‘adoption’ problem: 42 percent of core country musicfans who are offline, say they are not interested in getting online.
This dovetails with recent findings by the FCC’s Broadband Team regarding non-adopters. ‘Relevance’ is a key factor cited by people who do not subscribe to high speed Internet access. They don’t see what the Internet can do for them or why it is a service they should subscribe to.”
For Radio Survivor readers not deeply enmeshed in FCC policy, the Universal Service Fund helps subsidize the phone bills of low income people (many of them rural) and rural phone service providers. The National Broadband Plan is going to recommend that the USF be expanded to subsidize high speed Internet as well. In fact, lots of folks in Congress think that any rural telco that gets USF money should have to provide Internet service within X number of years (probably five or so).
Actually, there are studies that suggest that there are very few low income people who don’t know that they need broadband—especially these days when if you want a job at a place like Wal-Mart, you’ve got to apply on line. The price and availability of the service is the real deterrent. But it makes sense that Genachowski would quote CWA’s stats when talking to them. And sure enough, if rural Internet is more widely available and cheaper, more country music fans will doubtless sign up.
I fall to pieces
Anyway, you’ve got to read the end of the talk. “My staff decided to translate this whole speech into ‘Nashvillese’,” Genachowski concluded, “and here’s what they came up with:”
“When I think of those “Country Roads” and “Wide Open Spaces” without broadband, I “Fall to Pieces” and say that’s “Crazy.” We need to address these “Unanswered Prayers.”
“As FCC Chairman, I have friends in high places and “Friends in Low Places,” and I’m pulled to and fro on policy issues, but “I Walk the Line.” That’s because telecomm politics is like a “Ring of Fire.” First I have Senator Rockefeller telling me about a “Coal Miner’s Daughter” who can’t get wireless service in some “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” Next, “I’m on the Road Again” to where “The Grass is Blue” and “A Boy Named Sue” stops me and says we need super-duper fast broadband all the way from “Boulder to Birmingham” – and beyond, to “Galveston” and “El Paso.” He complains that his slow dial-up service can’t get to “Amarillo by Morning” and laments that America has gone round & round for years without a National Broadband Plan and plaintively asks, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”?
“I explain – to the “Boy Named Sue” – that this issue is “Always on my Mind” and the lack of a Plan should not make him “Hurt” or a “Man of Constant Sorrow” with his “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” Instead, I tell him to “Take it Easy ” — “Don’t Rock the Jukebox”…just try to “Keep on the Sunny Side” and dream “Sweet Dreams” — because a National Broadband Plan is coming. Next week.”
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